It's fine and good to be beautiful on the outside for a pageant, but even better to be beautiful on the inside.

That's the kind of goal Paisley Carrigan is aiming for.

Paisley, 5, recently won the title of Little Miss U.S. 2019, part of the AmeriFest National Pageant, on July 27 in Gatlinburg, Tenn. It was the highest title available for the girls ages 4-8.

"I was so excited," said Paisle, who attends Eubank Elementary School. "I just couldn't believe it."

Before that, in April, Paisley won the title of Little Miss Kentucky Bluegrass in Somerset at the Center for Rural Development, which qualified her for the AmeriFest National Pageant.

But that's not the best thing about her. Paisley also started a project called "Paisley's Heart for Hospice," which allowed her to reach out to Hospice of Lake Cumberland patients to try to make their lives a little brighter and a little better.

"After winning Little Miss Kentucky, Paisley immediately knew she wanted to give back," said Laura Carrigan, Paisley's mother. "The system she competes in strives to uphold the motto of, 'It's more than just ...'"

The first thought Paisley and Laura had was about giving to Hospice of Lake Cumberland. Paisley's grandfather, Alan McQueary, was a Hospice of Lake Cumberland patient prior to his passing in December 2018.

"We reached out to Hospice of Lake Cumberland nurse Jerree Humphrey to see what the patients could benefit from," said Laura. "Upon her suggestion, we began collecting shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions and other personal hygiene items, individually packaged snacks, along with small plastic boxes to make hospice 'blessing boxes' that could be easily grabbed as nurses went out to visit patients."

Paisley herself packaged over 50 boxes of items and included a picture of herself along with the items, and then made her donation at Hospice of Lake Cumberland on July 17 2019 with her grandmother Luanne McQueary.

"She refused to let any adults help her," said Laura. "This was her mission."

Laura said that the outpouring of support from friends, family, and even strangers to help get the items needed to make the boxes has been "humbling." She noted that Sasha Gossett, an employee of Hospice of Lake Cumberland, "has been very helpful" in coordinating donations left at Hospice of Lake Cumberland for Paisley to make more boxes.

Paisley has competed in county fair pageants since she was a baby, but this past fall she decided she wanted to begin competing at a larger level, said Laura. She began working with her friend and mentor Alice VanHook, who helped coach her and choreograph a dance routine for Little Miss Kentucky Bluegrass.

"After that win, she was determined to compete at the National pageant in July," said Laura. "She began practicing her modeling for evening gown, practicing her runway modeling, along with her introduction and onstage question. She met with her pageant coach Tiffany Porter prior to the national pageant who helped her perfect her walk and modeling, which helped lead her to this national title of Little Miss US."

Laura said that Paisley is "proud and honored" to bring the national title back to Pulaski County.

"She had so much fun at the national pageant," said Laura. "She competed in Evening Gown, Runway Modeling, (and) State-Themed Outfit, in which she wore a blue and white outfit we themed as 'Coach Cal's Assistant.' She also had to introduce herself at the pageant."

Paisley is the daughter of Laura and Brian Carrigan, the youngest sister of Corbin Carrigan, and the granddaughter of the Luanne and the Late Alan McQueary of Somerset, and of David and the late Rita Carrigan. Paisley lives on a farm in Eubank with her parents and brother Corbin. She enjoys playing with her many animals and attending gymnastics and dance.

Laura said that Paisley has been "so happy" to represent Pulaski County on a state level, but going to Gatlinburg and representing her home area for the whole nation is something that she could "have only dreamed of" -- but through it all, learned some valuable lessons.

"Paisley has learned that hard work pays off," said Laura. "Many think that pageantry is just a pretty face, but since last fall Paisley has put in many hours of practice to achieve this title. ... Paisley has also learned to have a servant's heart through this experience and she knows even at a young age that it's way more than just winning a pretty crown."