The talents and good deeds of Miss NJ Cara McCollum, who died after car crash
Tributes and fond memories continue to pour in about former Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum, who died early Monday from injuries sustained in a serious car accident a week earlier.
"Cara was a vibrant, intelligent, and exceptional young woman who was a proud advocate for women's education and a talented news anchor at SNJ Today. She exemplified the values of the Miss America Organization, and it has been a privilege having her as a part of the Miss America family," the pageant said in a statement.
Gov. Chris Christie expressed his condolences as well:
McCollum's Mustang skidded off Route 55 last Monday and into several trees, according to New Jersey State Police, who said she was not wearing a seat belt at the time.
The 24-year-old brought her Birthday Book program to former Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande's Young Women’s Leadership Institute, a program designed to mentor and guide young women to be leaders.
McCollum worked with a group to make sure that first- and second-grade Asbury Park students got a book on their birthdays.
"She facilitated the girls wrapping those books and getting those books over to Asbury Park," Casagrande told New Jersey 101.5.
She said books for this year have already been delivered, so the program will live on.
"Cara had an extraordinary heart for service that continued even after she left her Miss New Jersey post. Being in her presence was really a privlege for anyone," Casagrande said. Casagrande said that after taking classes at Princeton University during the week she'd come to Asbury Park on Saturday "and was such an inspiration" for the Leadership students.
The Birthday Book was an extension of McCollum's platform of literacy for the Miss America pageant. The Birthday Book Project provides brand new, gift-wrapped books to kindergarteners through fifth graders for their birthdays to promote the idea that reading is a gift.
Her final act was a selfless one as well — she donated her organs, according to a post on the "Prayers for Cara" Facebook page that announced her death.
McCollum left behind a body of work that pays tribute to her many talents. She worked as a journalist for SNJ today. She enjoyed singing — a talent expressed in a video shared by friends and family Monday, in which she performed the fitting "The Cup Song," anchored by the lyrics "You're going to miss me when I'm gone."