When Auburn University senior Molly Anne Dutton walked down the 50-yard line at Pat Dye Field Saturday, her adoptive mother, Peggy Dutton, walked alongside her.
When her name was announced as Auburn’s 2013 Miss Homecoming, both Dutton women cried together. And when university President Jay Gogue and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley presented the university’s 100th Miss Homecoming with a silver bowl, mother and daughter smiled.
But it was Dutton’s biological mother's decision to pursue adoption that inspired her to run on the platform of adoption advocacy.
“I’m the youngest of six kids; the youngest four of us are adopted,” Dutton explained.
Dutton’s biological mother was a young, married woman living in California when she was the victim of sexual assault that resulted in pregnancy. Her husband issued an ultimatum: abort the baby or prepare for divorce.
“She had no idea what she was going to do,” the Gardendale native said. “That’s when her journey took her down south to Alabama.”
Lifeline Children’s Services in Birmingham reached out to Dutton’s biological mother. At the time, Dutton’s adoptive parents were on the board of the Christian adoption agency that helped “shed some light into that really dark event.”
Dutton’s Miss Homecoming platform—Light up life—endeavored to educate young women on the options available during crisis pregnancies.
“It was an easy decision,” Dutton said of her adoption advocacy platform. “However, it wasn’t an obvious decision.”
A horticulture major, Dutton initially wanted to work toward a plant-based cause. Then, she considered fighting human trafficking. It wasn’t until she discussed platform ideas over lunch with friends that she decided to advocate a cause that had impacted her directly.
“One of the girls…said, “Molly, what do you think about sharing your story,’” Dutton said, remembering back three and a half weeks. “I had shared it with a smaller audience… I am honored to carry that story.”
For a week, Dutton’s team distributed yellow daisies and sold green and yellow t-shirts across campus, the proceeds of which went directly toward Lifeline. During that time, she shared her story with Auburn’s 25,000 students.
“That has just rippled out,” she said. “That’s been the biggest [change] on Monday, to know that it’s not just students who know my story, but men and women across the nation.”
Dutton said she was comfortable sharing her story. Hearing other students’ stories was more difficult.
“It was a very emotional time. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability,” she said. “That was a very special part of the week.”
Unlike many Miss Homecoming candidates, Dutton ran without the support of a sorority or other large organization. She was funded by a club within the horticulture department, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and said the small department has been very supportive of her campaign.
“I went to class and I did get a ‘Congratulations’ from my professor, which was awesome,” Dutton said.
Now that her whirlwind campaign is over, Dutton is excited for her duties as Miss Homecoming, which includes acting as a liaison between current university students and alumni.
“It wasn’t ever running against; it was running with four other girls,” Dutton said of her campaign. “Every day last week, when I put my head on the pillow, I just felt so accomplished.”
Dutton added she is “full of gratitude” for the Auburn student body that supported her platform and her personal experience with adoption.
“I was given grace to carry that story,” she said. “My story is a voice for the voiceless.”