Tara Regan is a remarkable young woman.
Start with her course of study at Bloomsburg University: social work, with minors in political science and American Sign Language (ASL). She’s always wanted to be in a helping profession. The ASL makes her valuable to a particular client population and the political side of things, she believes, will make her more effective in dealing with the policy side of being a social worker. Too, her cousin is Second District U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle. “On the 4th of July and such, we would always talk politics,” she says. “I would be 12 years old, telling him what I think.”
Look back, too, on her time playing the rough and tumble Irish sports of hurling and camogie with the Glenside Gaelic Club and the Philadelphia Shamrocks. She’s also played field hockey since she was 9—and she continues to play intramural field hockey at Bloomsburg. She also performed in plays at Bishop McDevitt High School. “I always loved acting and theater. I’m really big into Broadway. I love Broadway shows.”
Finally, though, catch a glimpse of the small round white sensor on her arm, and when you hear the story behind it, you’ll understand one reason why Tara Regan, 19, of Glenside, is the new Miss Mayo.
The sensor, paired with a smartphone app, measures her blood glucose levels. She has Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes, diagnosed when she was in the middle of her freshman year at McDevitt. It doesn’t define her—far from that—but it’s a fact of life she’s learned to live with, and it apparently had an impact on the Miss Mayo judges, who, she remembers, asked her this question: What has been your biggest accomplishment?
“I said it was being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager instead of as a little kid,” says Regan. “Obviously, it’s affected me a lot. Because I got it early in high school, it was a lot harder to deal with it and play sports and be in the shows and all. I think that’s what set me apart from the other girls because I went through this whole battle with my body and trying to figure out how to deal with it.”
The diagnosis, when it came, was a shock. Regan had a rash that was thought to be a bacterial infection. She was prescribed a course of antibiotics and sent home.
The rash seemed to get worse two weeks later, ironically around the time she was taking part in the Diabetes Walk in memory of Lori Kiely, a friend of her dad (Tom) and mother (Siobhain). At that point, the rash had begun to hurt.
During this time, her appetite had begun to increase dramatically, and she was always thirsty.
“I just kept complaining to my mother about how hungry I was,” she recalls. “My dad said, Tara, you can’t keep eating like that. You’ll spoil your dinner. Then I was always thirsty, which is one of the typical diabetes warning signs. Then, at the doctor’s office, they pricked my finger and the reading just kept saying ‘error,’ which meant my blood sugar was super high. Then they sent me to Abington Hospital and from there they transferred me by ambulance to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). I stayed in CHOP for a few days. I was actually admitted on October 27, around Halloween.”
Regan has made the best of things and manages her diabetes with the same discipline she applies to athletics.
Obviously, the judges were impressed. They also had to be taken with Regan’s deep ties to County Mayo. Her mom is from a small townland called Cloonfaulis in the Mayo town of Kilmovee. Her dad is from a townland in Kilmovee called Shraheens. Regan has been traveling back to Kilmovee every summer and some Christmases since she was 6 months old. “My mom’s entire family is there,” she says. “I have two uncles here with their kids and distant relatives, second cousins, great uncles and great aunts and so on. Mayo has always been a huge, huge part of my culture.”
“I didn’t make it just about Miss Mayo. I made it about my family.”
Mayo Association of Philadelphia President Maureen Callahan agrees, the Mayo ties are truly binding. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have Tara as our new Miss Mayo 2020,” she says. “She’s a lovely young lady and filled with energy and spirit and a real connection to her Mayo heritage.
“Tara’s family has deep Mayo roots and connections to the Mayo community and GAA community. As we continue to expand our mission, strengthen our bond with Mayo, and forge relationships with the next generation, Tara will be the perfect ambassador for the Mayo Association of Philadelphia. We’re looking forward to an exciting year with Tara and her family.”
Regan is looking forward to the coming year as well. Along with all her other accomplishments, she says she has always wanted to be Miss Mayo. She has attended the Mayo Ball several times, and on one occasion won a tuition scholarship from the Mayo Association. “I just always thought it would be a cool thing to do,” Regan says. “Even if I didn’t win, I just wanted the experience of doing it.”
She wasn’t sure she was going to win, but as with so many aspects of her life, she decided to just make the best of the night, one way or another.
“I didn’t make it just about Miss Mayo,” she explains. “I made it about my family. I danced on the dance floor. I had fun. My granddad and uncle were here from Ireland, and I danced with them. I also brought my little sister, who Irish dances. She tried to teach me a little slip jig, but I haven’t Irish danced since I was 10, when I was with the Timoney dancers for a little while. I just thought I’d have fun with all of it.”
She looks forward to more fun as her year as Miss Mayo goes on, but she understands there’s a serious part of the title, too.
“It just makes me proud to say I represent Mayo,” Regan says. “I want to show people that I’m proud to be from Mayo.”