A Jonesville woman who received local donations to help sponsor her trip into a national wheelchair competition failed to make the venue and has been stripped of her crown.
Ashley Macemore, 22, was crowned at a North Carolina pageant on April 6 in Asheville receiving the title Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina.
After the crowning, Macemore set a fundraising goal of $2,500. The amount would allow her to pay for expenses related to competing in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition.
According to the The Tribune’s last communication with Macemore in late May, Macemore indicated that she had surpassed the $2,500 goal and still had additional fundraisers in development.
Macemore’s grandmother, Betty Baity, who is also her landlord, indicated that Ashley ran into circumstances that caused her not to attend the national competition.
“She never made it,” said Baily. “Her phone was stolen, and all the pageant contact numbers were in it. Then Ashley told me that she lost her crown because they (pageant officials) couldn’t get ahold of her.”
According to the grandmother, Ashley has been staying at her mother’s place in Ronda recently instead of her primary residence.
Baity stated that Macemore ran into car problems too but is now driving a van.
According to a spokesperson for Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina-America, Inc., Macemore was stripped of her crown two weeks prior to the national event.
“Ashley’s crown was stripped. Each title holder has a requirement to fulfill. On behalf of nationals and myself, it was decided that we had to pull the crown. There was a national fee Ashley had to raise. Certain forms had to be filled out and submitted. She failed to comply with the finances and form requirements,” confirmed North Carolina coordinator Brandee Ponder.
Ponder stated that Macemore sent in an initial deposit of $950. When the final deposit was needed, that’s when communication went south, according to the organizer.
“We tried many times to communicate. She wouldn’t return calls. We notified her by email,” said Ponder. “She didn’t have things in order.”
According to online records by the Secretary of the Department of State, the Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina-America, Inc. status is listed as “suspended.”
“I was not aware of that,” said Ponder when asked about the suspension. She added that it does have an official 501(c)(3) status.
Donors have been unable to communicate with Macemore and have some questions.
One such contributor was Crossmore School, Inc. which donated $1,000 toward Macemore’s efforts.
According to a Crossmore School spokesperson, the school indicated they gave the money so that Macemore could attend the pageant, and they were disappointed to learn that she did not attend.
“That’s not a good thing,” said a spokesperson in the Crossmore School accounting office. “We can verify that the donation has not been returned to us.”
Records show that additional contributors donated amounts ranging from $10 to $100.
Three Elkin residents called The Tribune to voice concern about their donations. One resident disclosed that he gave $100 toward Macemore’s efforts.
“She fell off the face of the earth,” said Jim Ipock of Elkin. “I’ve tried contacting her to see how her national experience went. She hasn’t contacted me or any other donors that I’ve contacted. I’m trying to give this person the benefit of the doubt here, but I’m thinking she never went at all and kept the money.”
Macemore set up two campaign accounts on GiveForward.com, a personalized online fundraising service helping to raise money for medical bills and other charitable needs. An account was also established at Yadkin Bank.
It is unknown how much cash was collected by Macemore.
GiveForward and Yadkin Bank would not disclose the total amount raised through their accounts.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office urged caution.
“We don’t see any charity related to Ms. Wheelchair N.C. or Ms. Wheelchair America licensed to solicit here in North Carolina (charities are required by law to be licensed to solicit here by the NC Secretary of State’s Office). North Carolina General Statute § 131F-20(18) states that it is unlawful to “fail to apply contributions in a manner substantially consistent with the solicitation,” said public information officer Noelle Talley with Cooper’s office.
According to Talley, soliciting money and potentially misusing it could be problematic. The entire matter could be investigated by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
“Anyone who contributed to her (Macemore) and wishes to complain can do so by calling us at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filling out the consumer complaint form on our website at ncdoj.gov,” said Talley.
Regardless, the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant was held in Houston, Texas at the Hyatt Regency on July 15 - 21.
Hyatt Regency’s director of security Rick Maxcy confirmed that Ms. Wheelchair America is a major client of the hotel and the event did take place during the advertised dates.
The hotel would not release names of any guests who checked into any room, but stated that they would work with law enforcement, should an inquiry be placed to the hotel by police.
Attempts to contact Macemore directly have been unsuccessful.
Macemore’s cell phone is no longer accepting private calls either.
“I spoke to Ashley last night to see if she was alright. It gets to the point where I don’t know if she’s saying the truth or not. All I know is that I’ve been her backbone, always trying to get her to do the right thing,” said Baity.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at email@example.com