Hi all! My name is Jessica Tilton and I am your Miss Quad Cities 2023! However, I occupy numerous other roles as well, such as a biology professor, color guard coach, fashion designer, businesswoman, scientist, keynote speaker, and an advocate for organ donation working with four national organizations plus the Illinois Secretary of State.
Even though I only joined Miss America a little over a year ago, I am elated to compete at Miss Illinois for the second time this June. Since I last competed in June 2022, I hit the ground running–knowing what areas of competition I needed to revamp for the upcoming year. Working with the MMC dream team, my own research, and other coaching platforms, I continually push to be the best version of myself.
I am thrilled for everyone to see my wardrobe, talent, and performance on stage in June! My passion and hard work which I outpour both on stage and in the community stems from my dedication to promote organ donation. Ever since I was little, I worked Gift of Hope & Donate Life booths with my family.
My late grandfather was the first in my family to develop polycystic kidney disease (PKD) as a spontaneous mutation. His kidneys failed when he was 44 and started dialysis for the first time. Eight months later, he received a donor kidney from a teenage girl who passed away suddenly in a car accident. Her parents honored her wishes of being an organ donor and this is the only reason I was able to meet my grandfather. The donor kidney provided my grandfather with four days short of 23 additional years. Because of her generous gift of life, I have almost 16 years of cherished memories with my grandfather.
However, PKD did not end with my grandfather. He passed on the gene to both of his children (my Dad—Rob & my Aunt Karin), both of my Aunt Karin’s children, and my youngest sister. My Aunt Karin received a kidney transplant a little over two years ago and she is living everyday thankful for the gift of life. My Dad is waiting on the national transplant list for a lifesaving kidney.
I am currently going through the process of applying to become a living donor for my Dad and will finish my testing at the Mayo Clinic in a week. I hope to be a match and save my Dad’s life, because the greatest gift you can give to others is the gift of life.