Miss Teen Pennsylvania International and Altoona native Julianne Biddle is striving to make a difference in the lives of teens through her pageant platform: "educate to eliminate teenage suicide."
Biddle, 17, will sponsor a Suicide Prevention and Awareness Banquet at the Bavarian Hall, 112 S. 13th St., from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
The banquet includes dinner, dancing, a basket fundraiser and more. Tickets are $20, and proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Miss Teen Pennsylvania International Julianne Biddle shows items that will be included in a basket auction to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Biddle is conducting the benefit on Sunday.
Biddle, a 2012 Altoona Area High School graduate, is a spokeswoman for the organization. She also sits on the youth education committee of the Blair County Task Force for Suicide Prevention.
"She really is just such a dedicated and hard working young woman," said Jodi L. Cessna, the pageant's state director.
Biddle plans to study nursing at Mount Aloysius College. She received the Mercy Scholarship award for $40,000 over four years.
If you go
What: Suicide Prevention and Awareness Banquet
Where: Bavarian Hall, 112 S. 13th St.
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20; proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; call 215-5146 or 946-5053
She will compete against 39 other girls for the Miss Teen International title July 26 to 28 in Chicago. Biddle and her mom, Debbie, work at Sheetz, which is sponsoring Biddle in the pageant.
Biddle said the idea for her platform stemmed from losing two schoolmates to suicide. She has also lost a family member and recently an acquaintance.
"I just know it's like an epidemic in my community as well as others," she said. "I just want to make a difference for teenagers, especially because I am one."
Biddle has spoken out at Out of the Darkness walks and a Rotary event on the subject since her crowning at the pageant March 24 held at Altoona's Jaffa Shrine Center, she said. The banquet is her first big fundraiser.
It is important for teachers and others who have contact with teenagers to watch for the warning signs of suicide such as isolation, giving away one's prized possessions and changes in habits, Biddle said. If one suspects someone of wanting to harm themselves don't leave the person alone, reassure them they are cared about, and seek help, she said.
Debbie Biddle said she and her husband, Ron, are proud of their daughter.
"To make a difference in just one life would be worth all of the effort," she said. "I want to speak up, save lives and make a difference for teenagers everywhere, today, tomorrow and for years to come."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.