Free haircut? Check. Free gas? Check. A free trip to New York City? Check.
Scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed and other websites, SMU fashion media major Chandler Helms enrolls in any contests every chance she has. From contests with prizes of $5 to winning an all-inclusive trip to New York, Helms counts her odds of winning as high.
Helms has won free tickets to plays, movies, operas, and concerts. She’s also won a number of free meals and gift cards to some of her favorite places. Her favorite win of all was a free trip to New York.
Helms has learned winning is as easy as entering her last name in contests. Often people think they will not win and pass up the opportunity, however, their loss is Helms’ gain. Helms always had a love for chance and possibility.
“I started a bible study with her about three weeks ago. She seems like the kind of person that always takes advantage of what life has to offer every second of the day. Hearing this doesn’t surprise me at all,” said business major Olivia Twining.
Her love for contests all started with radio contests when she was in middle school. Waking up before 6 a.m. she would start her morning off strategically planning which contests sounded best. Once she found the most interesting ones she would spend her time calling in before leaving for school.
“There was a lot less competition in the morning,” said Helms.
Jane Crownover Helms, Helms’ mother is not one to partake in contests and was always surprised when her daughter shared news of her winnings.
“I didn’t know about 90 percent of the contest she entered until she would say, ‘hey mom I won a haircut this morning, can we go by the radio station and pick up my certificate?’” said Crownover Helms.
Although she’s had success winning, most people, even her best friends, don’t know about her secret hobby.
“I don’t talk about the contest stuff very often, most people don’t know that I enter all these. It’s more of a private thing I do for my own enjoyment,” said Helms.
By high school Helms started entering anything she could find. Not all of the contests have been successful but the thrill of possibility keeps her going.
“I like working towards that one percent because someone has to win. Why not me?” she says.
Helms said she has learned how to spot scams upfront and how to avoid certain types of ads or phrases.
“My mom chalks it up to believing anything I hear on TV and a little bit of gullibility but there was one prize that caught everyone off guard,” she said.
In her sophomore year of high school Helms won what every high school girl dreamt of, the grand prize for the Teen Vogue back-to-school sweepstakes.
“I entered it like any other I had found, no secret tricks and then they emailed me. There were a few runner-up prizes as well but somehow I hit the high school girl jackpot: Alexander Wang sunglasses, two Joie beaded necklaces, a Marc Jacobs purse, a mini Dell laptop, and a free trip to New York with airfare and hotel. I mean… What? It was crazy!” said Helms.
The Teen Vogue sweepstakes is the biggest prize she has won so far. Helms believes it might be a once-in-a-lifetime win however, she figures the more she enters the better chance she will have at winning a big prize again.
“I think it’s fun to try your luck,” said Helms.