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Miss Florida USA climbs Sanibel Lighthouse

By Staff | Jun 30, 2010

Megan Clementi, the reigning Miss Florida USA, prepares to climb the 135 stairs to the top of the Sanibel Lighthouse.

When Megan Clementi, the current Miss Florida USA, began her reign nearly one year ago, she wanted to be able to look back on her title having taken an opportunity to do some good on behalf of a number of worthwhile causes.

So when Clementi turns over her crown in a couple of weeks, she can confidently say that her goals have been accomplished.

The founder of "Climb For The Cure" — a fundraising branch of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness — visited the island on Tuesday morning and made her way to the top of the Sanibel Lighthouse.

With every step — all 135 of them — Clementi is not only raising money for cancer research and treatment program across the state. She is also collecting funds that will be put toward maintaining and restoring Florida’s lighthouses.

"The idea came to me when I was driving with my dad," said the 26-year-old Jupiter, Fla. native. "We would pass all of these lighthouses, which I have loved since I was a child. I said to him, ‘Maybe there’s a way we could do some good for them, too.’ There is so much funding that’s needed to preserve these structures and keep them well maintained."

Megan Clementi, center, poses for a picture with Coast Guard Petty Officers Eric Smith, left, and Erick Toval.

Since January, Clementi has been visiting lighthouses throughout the Sunshine State. In all, she will climb 23 of Florida’s 30 lighthouses by the end of the summer. On Tuesday, she climbed to the top of Sanibel’s 98-foot-tall icon as well as lighthouses in Boca Grande and Gasparilla.

"The lighthouse in Cape Canaveral is undergoing some construction work right now, but that’s supposed to be done by mid-August," she explained. "That will probably be the last one that I visit."

According to Clementi, she created "Climb For The Cure" after her boyfriend’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her organization solicits sponsorships for each lighthouse-climbing event, with proceeds split between the cancer charity and lighthouse restoration groups.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she earned a degree in Electrical Engineering, Clementi started taking dance lessons at age 5. Since then, she has worked as a dancer/performer at Tokyo Disneyland, served as captain of the NBA’s Orlando Magic dance team and as the team’s in-game emcee for the past two seasons.

Escorted to the top of the Sanibel Lighthouse by two members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Clementi took several panoramic images from the top of the structure before returning to the bottom. Afterwards, she called the climb "a great workout."

Clementi walked around the top of the lighthouse, taking pictures of the panoramic views.

"One of the fondest memories I have from my childhood is climbing to the top of the Jupiter Lighthouse," she said. "Another thing about going up lighthouses like this is that  it’s so unbelievably hot inside there. But when you get to the top and walk out into the air, the breeze in your face feels just incredible. It’s so cool and refreshing."

For more information about Clementi, visit www.MissFloridaUSA.com.

Miss Florida USA smiled as she prepared to start her ascent.

Carefully climbing down the lower ladder, Clementi said Tuesday's climb was "a great workout."