For PennWest California sophomore Annie Rieg, pageantry is a family affair. As a child, Rieg would wear the crown of her mother, who was a finalist for the 1992 Miss Pennsylvania pageant.
“When I would ask her if I could compete in pageants, she said that I could make a choice to compete in pageantry when I was old enough to understand the value of community service,” Rieg said.
Now, Rieg gets her own opportunity to represent her community and give back, as the newly crowned Miss North Huntingdon 2023 will compete for Miss Pennsylvania International March 18 in Altoona, Pa.
Although there are several pageant circuits both nationally and internationally, Rieg’s sense of community pointed her to the Miss Pennsylvania International.
“(My mother) stressed the need to be involved with a sincere program that promoted giving back to others,” she said. “This is why I selected the Miss Pennsylvania International Pageant Program.”
The competition focuses on philanthropy as a primary pillar, Rieg noted. Her focus is on promoting organ donation, a cause that is personal for her and her family.
“My grandfather passed away waiting for a bone-marrow transplant, so I understood the pain of losing a loved one while waiting for lifesaving treatment,” she said. “Through pageantry, I met a very dear friend, Michelle McDonald Boeke, who was a former Miss USA 1971. She had received a double-lung transplant from UPMC, and we became personal friends.
“She taught me so much about the process of organ donation. I started to understand how important it is to reach younger people to consider being a donor. Knowing the struggles of patients and their families waiting for a donor has made a lifelong impression on me and gives me the drive to want to help.”
In 2018 while a student at Deer Lakes High School, Rieg independently raised over $10,000 in a fundraiser for a friend dealing with health issues. Sadly, her friend passed three months later from lung complications.
“I realized that people can donate in so many ways,” she said. “To think that people we may never know – but want to give and support in big ways and in smaller ways – is the greatest gift of all. So, I say ‘give the gift.’ Be a donor, save a life.”
In addition to her focus on organ donation awareness, Rieg is a decorated twirler, winning many awards on the local, state and national level and performing as a member of Cal’s Feature Twirlers.
“Competitive baton twirling has opened many doors for me, academically, financially, and the opportunities of lifelong friendships with people from all over the country,” Reig said. “It’s taught me discipline, teamwork and honoring the greatness in others. Pageantry offers many of these same life lessons that last long after trophies, crowns, and titles.”
If Reig wins the title of Miss Pennsylvania International, she will advance to represent PennWest Cal and the Commonwealth in July’s national competition in Tennessee.
In the meantime, Reig continues her studies at Cal, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree and planning to pursue her master’s degree with a goal of working towards marketing new treatment and medical breakthroughs for organ donors and their recipients.
“I am grateful for the education and opportunities that I am receiving here at PennWest California,” she said. “This will help me to serve others and make a difference in the quality of life for many.”