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New Kensington Girl Scout seeks videos of disabled people highlighting their abilities

August 23, 2018 GMT

Abby Yurga wants to highlight people’s abilities, not their disabilities, and her Girl Scout Gold Award project is geared toward that.

She is making a movie to showcase the abilities and talents of people with disabilities, so people will recognize them for what they are able to do, rather than their diagnoses.

“All of us kids have special talents, even ones that have disabilities,” said Yurga, 18, of New Kensington.

“The message I’m trying to drive is: don’t be afraid of showing off your talents no matter if you’re scared, no matter if you have a disability, they’re still going to love you the same way, they’re just going to find out maybe a secret talent that you never had.”

Yurga, a recent Valley High School graduate, is asking people to send videos and photos demonstrating their talents to her and her mother so they can make a 15-minute compilation video that they will share on Facebook and YouTube.

They had received roughly six dozen videos and photos through Facebook and e-mail as of Friday morning, but are looking for many more.

“We want to represent as many people as possible,” said Sarah Yurga, Abby’s mom and Girl Scout troop leader. “We would love to have 200 individual’s videos/photos to compile.”

The project has a deep, personal meaning for Yurga, who is autistic. She also has a lot of friends that have special needs.

Yurga said many of her friends weren’t even aware that she had autism until she told them, and even then, they didn’t care because of her talents.

She is a regular participant in the Miss 22 Quties Special Needs Beauty Pageant, volunteers with Autism Speaks, was drum major for Valley High’s marching band, and also performed in several musicals.

“When I tell them they’re like, ‘wow’ ... ‘what?’ You’re still amazing at what you do,” Yurga said. “Not many people knew I had autism, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I love.”

Yurga has been working on the project since July and has a Facebook page -- “This Ability Gold Award” -- dedicated to it. The Facebook page features a promotional video explaining what she is trying to do. It had exceeded 24,000 views as of Friday afternoon.

“I was shocked at the response,” Yurga said. “I didn’t think it was going to get that popular.”

Sarah Yurga said the two came up with the idea for the project together.

She said her daughter sometimes gets frustrated because people tend to focus on her autism rather than on her talents, and even Sarah Yurga is guilty of that sometimes because she is so proud of her.

“It kind of just rubs Abby the wrong way,’” Sarah Yurga said. “She decided that she wanted to do it just because she has an opportunity to show off so many people’s talents that deserve it.”

Girl Scouts going for their Gold Awards are required to have project mentors. Abby Yurga chose Tammy Rose and Erica Higginbotham, the executive director and assistant executive director, respectively, of the Miss 22 Quties Special Needs Beauty Pageant to be hers.

Higginbotham said Abby Yurga is an amazing girl and thinks the idea behind her project is awesome.

She said she thinks people with special needs are often told that they can’t do something, when really they can, and it’s good when they have the backup and the environment to be able to foster their talents.

“I think Abby has that caring heart; that is why she chose to do that,” she said. “Abby is aware of the obstacles that she’s overcome, and I think that she’s so genuine that she just wants everybody to realize that they have that ability.”