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Beauty Pageant Gives Girls With Special Needs a Chance to Shine

Now in its second year, the 22 Quties pageant takes place at North Way Christian Community.

For Tammy Rose, founding the , served a dual purpose.

It was a way to raise awareness for 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, a little known genetic disorder that affects one of her five daughters, and gave a stage to her youngest child, a budding fashionista who has intellectual disabilities.

“I figured, why not put the two together,” she said. “I can raise awareness while my youngest daughter competes in a beauty pageant and shows off her fashion princess style.”

Now in its second year, the 22 Quties pageant, which is open to any female ages 14 to 25 with special needs or a disability, takes place tonight (Wednesday) at  along Perry Highway in Pine Township.

The doors open at 6 p.m. and the pageant takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Just like the dazzling competitions seen on television, the 22 Quties pageant will feature a talent competition, an evening gown portion and a question-and-answer session. There also will be a Chinese Auction and 50/50 raffle.

“We have been taking the last month and half to learn our dances,” Rose said. “These kids are the cutest kids.”

Proceeds from the $5 donation requested at the door benefit the Dempster Family Foundation. Started by Texas Rangers pitcher Ryan Dempster and his wife, Jenny, the nonprofit raises awareness for and supports children with 22q Deletion. In 2009, the Dempsters' daughter, Riley, was born with the syndrome, a hereditary disorder in which part of the 22nd chromosome is missing.

The foundation’s 22q Mystery Bus, which travels across the country to educate people on the syndrome, also will stop at North Way Christian Community for the pageant. 

While each girl at Wednesday’s event will receive a trophy and a carnation for their participation, only one will be crowned Miss Qutie and be given a sash and bouquet of flowers.

Rose, of Cranberry, said there are 16 special needs girls from around the area competing in the open-to-the-public pageant, including two of her daughters.

Megan Rose, the 14-year-old fashionista, has learning disabilities. Her older sister, Alicia, 17, was born with 22q Deletion. Depending on how much of the chromosome is missing, the severity of the syndrome can range from hearing loss and speech delays to heart defects and kidney problems, Rose said.

“When the kids are born, the parents face a lot of medical issues,” Rose said. “Some of the kids have feeding tubes. Some have heart issues. As they reach school age, we’re dealing with learning support and special education teachers. When they reach young adult, they deal with mental health issues. They all tend to follow a similar pattern.”

Rose said Alicia, who the family adopted at birth, is affected by a cleft palate, speech delays and hearing loss.

During Wednesday's talent portion, Megan, who also was adopted a birth, will perform a dance she choreographed to a Justin Bieber song. Alicia plans to sing The Climb by Miley Cyrus, an inspirational song about overcoming life obstacles.

“That’s so fitting for her,” Rose said.

Rose said all the contestants, as well as their families, are excited to be part of the pageant.  Before the event, the girls will be treated to makeovers and manicures at the Woodlands Foundation in Wexford.

Competitor Julia Kaluzny, 20, of Cranberry, who has Down Syndrome—and who also took part in last year’s pageant—will make the closing remarks at the pageant.

Rose said her eldest daughter, Melissa, a 30-year-old former pageant queen, also helped organize the pageant.   

“She thinks this the coolest idea,” Rose said. “She’s been giving me ideas for it and is a huge, huge help. She loves the fact that her little sisters get to do this.”

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