Local girl sets sights on 'Most Beautiful Eyes' title

Kayla Helferich (provided)

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- An 8-year-old girl has been selected as a semi-finalist in the "Most Beautiful Eyes Contest."

"People have always been telling me that she has pretty eyes," Michelle Helferich said of her daughter, Kayla. "It's one of the first things they seem to notice about her."

Michelle actually has a blog called Big Blueberry Eyes and that's where she said she learned about the contest. She said someone from Prevent Blindness contacted her to spread the word about the contest and she decided to enter Kayla's picture.

"She has Down syndrome and one of the characteristics is Brushfield spots in the eyes," Michelle said. "She has these little white spots around the iris in the eye. They sparkle."

The national contest took place through Facebook. Parents were encouraged to upload photos of children up to age 17.{} The photo with the most votes from each state, with the exception of Rhode Island, advanced to the final round. The three finalists were chosen from those.

Helferich, from Summerville, South Carolina, Hailey Verrill from Maine and Lyla Zaragoza from Oklahoma{}and their families will travel to Chicago later this month to attend the Prevent Blindness America annual awards banquet.

The contest winner will get a $25,000 college scholarship and will serve as the face of the Star Pupils program for one year. The second and third place winners will also receive scholarships.

Former television broadcaster Larry King, Pittsburgh Pirate Derrek Lee and NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham served as celebrity judges.