Contestants will take the stage on Sunday in Cranberry Township for a beauty pageant unlike any other. That's because all of the contestants in the 2017 Miss 22 Quties pageant have special needs.
Inside the Victory Family Church in Cranberry, where the pageant will take place, a group of girls and their parents worked hard ahead of Sunday's big show.
"I'm actually really excited, because I actually wrote my own song, called 'Be Strong,' and it's about me standing up for myself and be able to do stuff with this pageant," said Alicia Rose, a contestant.
Rose's mother, Tammy Rose, started the Miss 22 Quties pageant in 2010 in an effort to help her daughters with special needs.
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"I've heard so many times it gives the girls the ability to participate in something that every little girl gets to participate in if they want. I've had parents come back and tell me that it's helped boost their daughter's self confidence," Tammy Rose said.
"It's about these girls, and how brave they are, and how special they are, and how they can get up in front of a large group of people and show their individual talents and allow them that place to shine," asid Erica Higginbotham, the assistant executive director for the pageant.
While the pageant winner gets a crown and a sash, and it is technically a beauty pageant, the parents and contestants themselves agree it's about more than just looks.
"(My daughter) loves standing on the stage, and I love watching how much braver and stronger she is every year," said Sarah Yurga, a contestant's mother.
"It's a great way for me to get to make new friends. I have so much fun on the stage," said Abby Yurga, a 17-year-old contestant.
The girls taking part said the pageant is not only fun and helps them make friends, but more importantly it teaches them important life lessons.
"There was a time in my life when I wasn't doing so well, and with this pageant it helped me not think about it. It made me feel happy and inspired me to live my life," said Kelcie Gilbert, the 2016 winner of Miss 22 Quties.
"There's a lot of amazing talents, and they want -- they can melt your heart. And kids with disabilities have dreams as well. And they don't want to be left out of anything like activities or anything else," said Alicia Rose.
The doors open for the Miss 22 Quties pageant at 3 p.m., and everyone is invited to attend. There is a request for a $5 donation at the door. For more information visit https://www.miss22quties.org/.
The Victory Family Church has a program to help families of children with special needs called the "Endless Possibilities" program. For more information, you can visit http://www.lifeatvictory.com/children/.
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