More than skin deep
Miss Ocala USA, Casana Fink, 22, poses on the Ocala Downtown Square in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. She will be competing in the Miss Florida Pageant in Orlando in July. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
Miss Ocala’s focus on organ donations is personal mission
On March 26th, Ocala native Casana Fink was awarded the title Miss Ocala 2021 and will be representing her hometown in the upcoming Miss Florida USA competition.
From starting a nonprofit at age 15 to working in the Manhattan fashion industry, the 22-year-old is accustomed to facing an audience.
Fink first began competing in the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant when she was 14—the year her father’s liver failed. For months, Fink watched her father grow thinner and thinner in the hospital bed, unable to eat, barely able to walk. For months, he waited for a transplant before finally receiving one.
Competing in pageants allowed Fink to speak about the organ donation issue.
“I just felt more confident in who I was, and I felt like I was able to command a room,” Fink said. “And I had this new platform that I could now have a stage to talk about organ donation.”
She would become the teen Miss Gainesville, Miss Lake City, and Miss Ocala, all while starting her own nonprofit, Give to Live–Donate Life.
No one understands the crisis of organ shortages until they are affected directly, Fink said. So, she created the organization to promote and educate people about organ tissue donation.
Fink sees pageants as not mere beauty competitions but as powerful arenas for girls to affect change.
“From my personal experience,” she said, “I think that it gives a wonderful platform for young women to feel empowered and to feel like their voice is actually heard.”
Fink credits pageants to her self-confidence, work ethic, and ability to handle new environments.
“[A pageant] really forces girls, whether you want to or not, to strive for better than you are,” she said, “because you’re also surrounded by all these girls that are doing the max that they can at a young age, and so it just makes you want to be that person as well.”
In 2015, Fink took a break from pageants to focus on college. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2019 with a degree in Telecommunications. That summer, Fink studied at the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design in London and New York before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fink is excited to give back to the community that supported her and her family as her dad fought for his life.
“Ocala produces such incredible people,” she said. “So to be able to represent and try and make change here and go to events and just really be exposed to everything that’s happening in Ocala just makes me appreciate that much better, and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it.”
As Miss Ocala 2021, Fink wants to volunteer and meet as many people from the community as she can. She pushing for the reissue of the Donate Life Florida specialty license plates which were discontinued. The revenue from the plates went to help pay for the travel expenses of transplant patients.
Another way she plans to serve is by giving others the opportunity to donate.
“Because I am in the fashion industry,” Fink said, “I would love to incorporate that into community service, and so I would love to do clothing drives… [to be donated] to places like Kimberly’s Cottage and other community outreach programs…”
Another of her goals is to bring Operation Underground Railroad, a program that combats sex trafficking and child exploitation, to Ocala.
On July 18th, Fink will compete for the title of Miss Florida USA — the winner will spend the year working with different charities.
For information about Fink and her campaign for Miss Florida, follow her on Facebook @MissOcalaUSA.