A Miss on a serious mission

Once a victim, Miss Phila. leads fight against drunk driving

missphila-400
Andrea Helfrich, 21, will compete for Miss Pennsylvania title. (Caroline Morris / Staff)

During the first life-changing moment for Andrea Helfrich, all she heard were screams and shattering glass.

On Saturday night, when her life changed again, she again heard screams - but this time they were accompanied by applause, as she was crowned Miss Philadelphia 2010 at the Mandell Theater, at Drexel University.

Helfrich, 21, a senior at West Chester University, was the victim of a DUI crash as a sophomore at Council Rock High School South, in Holland, Bucks County, an experience she now uses to promote her pageant platform - the fight against drunken driving.

"You are required to have a platform in the Miss America system, you choose it," she said. "This one, I feel, chose me.

"This isn't a disease that people get," she said. "Drunk driving can be prevented."

Helfrich was the rear passenger in a vehicle that was hit from behind by a 22-year-old woman with a blood-alcohol content of .28 who had fallen asleep at the wheel, she said.

A friend in the vehicle suffered permanent injuries, but Helfrich, a dancer, said she felt "blessed" to walk away with just cuts, bruises and a concussion.

Responders told her that if the wreckage had landed just an inch differently, it could have broken her legs or left her paralyzed.

"I realized I was an inch away from my whole life changing," she said.

Helfrich didn't wait for her entrance into the pageant world to speak out about the dangers of drunken driving.

She called schools in her district and asked to speak there.

"At the time, I didn't have a title," she said. "I was just a student."

With her experience in public speaking, it's fitting that Helfrich is majoring in communications studies and hopes to go into event-planning.

She attends classes two days a week and works three days a week as a marketing director for Money Centers of America.

Along with dancing and public speaking, Helfrich enjoys costume design.

She designed her gown for the pageant.

She will participate in the Miss Pennsylvania pageant in June in Pittsburgh.

More Coverage

    More News