The couple was introduced to the program, then called Junior Miss, by a host family participant.
“The program is all about scholarship and girls reaching their potential,” Gary Fuller said.
“I really believe in the program ... it’s about scholarship, it is not about beauty, it’s about health and fitness and grade-point averages,” Pat Fuller said.
The scholarship competition encourages girls to “be their best self.”
The Fullers see participating in the program as a way of having an impact in the community.
“We try to do as many things in the community as we can,” Gary Fuller said.
This year the couple is hosting Kaitlyn Bunn of Cumberland Valley; Brianna Sandoval of East Hamilton; Rhiannon Gilbert of Marion County and Caty Davis of Knoxville. Pat Fuller said the girls are already bonding and helping each other prepare for the competition.
The couple said many times they will be set to host two girls and wind up hosting for four because a potential host family falls through. Gary said he thinks it works out well for the girls when there are four of them because they get to know more of the contestants on a deeper level.
Pat said they enjoy spending time with the girls.
“I enjoy their energy,” Pat Fuller said. “It’s fun sitting around the table and getting a review of their day.”
She said she enjoyed watching the girls as they help each other and learn the routines. She said when they have four girls they usually take care of themselves. She said the girls are always excited the first night. Pat said they are usually exhausted by Tuesday night.
Gary said much of his role in being a host parent is making sure the girls have everything that they need. He also helps them get breakfast in the morning and helps them prepare for the interview portion of the competition by asking them questions about current events.
Each year the DYW program calls the couple to see if they would be interested in hosting again. The couple was unable to host last year but had participated for three years before that.
While none of the Fullers’ host daughters have won the overall award, they have had a few second place and individual category winners.
Pat Fuller said the girls are aways really nervous before the interview portion of the competition. She said her husband has helped them calm down by posing some potential competition questions.
Gary Fuller’s favorite memories of being a host family come after the event is over when the couple receives letters, messages and graduation announcements.
“To hear of them achieving part of what they wanted to do,” Gary Fuller said.
When the high school juniors come to the Fullers they are full of dreams and the girls stay in touch. The Fullers have been able to see the girls fulfill some of those dreams.
Pat Fuller said they had never really had girls get homesick during the competition.
While the participant parents will not have interaction with their daughters during the week, the girls can call home for short conversations worked into their busy days.