The eyes have it for Kayla Helferich.

The Summerville youngster, daughter of Michelle and Joe Helferich, recently was named the winner of Prevent Blindness America's national "Most Beautiful Eyes" contest, which was intended to bring attention to eye health.

She won a $25,000 college scholarship and will serve a year as the face of Star Pupils, Prevent Blindness' children's eye-health program.

"It was surprising and overwhelming," her mother said. "I don't know if it's even sunk in yet."

Helferich, who writes a blog called "Big Blueberry Eyes," entered a photo of Kayla, 8, in the contest after she was asked by Prevent Blindness to promote the contest on her blog.

Kayla, a student at Windsor Hill Art Infused Elementary School, has Down syndrome, and Helferich thought it would shed positive light on the condition. Kayla's eyes have Brushfield spots, which look like white sparkles and are a characteristic of Down syndrome.

The judges didn't know about the Down syndrome.

"When I entered, there was no information about that," Helferich said. "I just submitted her photo with her name and age."

Kayla was named a semifinalist after online voting in September and was chosen by a panel of celebrity judges as one of three finalists in October, according to Prevent Blindness.

The finalists received all-expenses-paid trips to Chicago for Prevent Blindness' annual banquet, where the winner was announced Friday. The celebrities -- former television broadcaster Larry King, Derrek Lee of the Pittsburgh Pirates and NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham -- also chose the winner.

"We had a great time," said Sarah Hecker of Prevent Blindness. "We took them to the Rainforest Cafe and did a photo shoot with them. Kayla's picture will now be on our website and our printed material as the face of Star Pupils."

Lyla Zaragoza, 2, of Oklahoma, won the first runner-up prize of a $4,000 scholarship, and Hailey Verrill, 4, of Maine, received a $2,000 scholarship as the second runner-up.

"Kayla was very excited to be up there on stage and have her name called," Helferich said. "She got a big, huge check and a ribbon. She was very excited about her ribbon because it was something that was tangible to her. She wanted to sleep with it on and wear it to school today."

Helferich is focused on more than the ribbon.

"Of course we're most excited about the scholarship and the opportunities it will provide for Kayla," she said. "I think there are about 200 colleges that have programs for students with disabilities. We're very excited about what it will mean for Kayla. Hopefully, by the time she gets ready for college, there will be a lot to choose from. "

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