July 5, 2013 (LifeIssues) - The stage is set and the spotlight shines down on a group of young, smiling faces. Their beautiful hair, clothing and make-up pale in comparison to a far more important inner beauty that’s shining through. No, this isn’t your typical beauty pageant. It’s the “Miss You Can Do It” pageant showcasing young girls with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy and spina bifida to Down syndrome.

Thanks to TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, we’ve seen a glimpse of the downright appalling world of pageantry. “Miss You Can Do It” couldn’t be more different and is a welcome change filled with heartwarming stories. Founder, Abbey Curran was born with cerebral palsy, but that didn’t stop her. She was in high school when told by a teacher that because of her disability, she couldn’t compete in pageants. This set Abbey on a course of action to prove her wrong—and she did! Abby started in small, local pageants and eventually progressed to winning the title of Miss Iowa and becoming the first woman with a physical disability to compete in the Miss USA pageant in 2008. Now, she’s helping girls from across the country enjoy a similar experience through the “Miss You Can Do It” pageant.

This special event is a non-profit and volunteer-run pageant. It features 50 girls from ages 4-25 who have special needs and challenges. Each girl is treated to professional hair and make-up and receives a formal tuxedo escort on stage. Contestants compete in a number of categories including: casual wear, evening wear, private interview and an on-stage question. Awards are given for most photogenic, people’s choice and congeniality. And every contestant goes home with a trophy, crown, sash, gift and a most memorable experience.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of “Miss You Can Do It” and the pageant is being chronicled on an HBO documentary. Filmmaker, Ron Davis, was moved by a photo of some of the contestants smiling and beaming at the camera. He thought, “There’s a movie here. There’s a story behind this much happiness.” The documentary is currently airing and features the emotional stories of a number of girls.

  • Meg is a sweet, wide-eyed little girl with Down syndrome. She’s overflowing with charming smiles! Wanting Meg to have a sister to connect with, her parents adopted a girl named Alina from Ukraine who also has Down syndrome.
  • Confined to a wheelchair, 5-year-old Tierney has never walked. She has spinal muscular atrophy type II, which will cause the slow deterioration of all the muscles throughout her body. Her energetic personality is contagious as you watch her zoom across the stage in her powered wheelchair.
  • Teyanna is a preteen who suffers from a severe case of cerebral palsy, which affects her speech and movement. After she was born, a nurse suggested she be institutionalized, but her parents refused. She’s smart, courageous and literally lights up on stage.

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“This pageant is about inspiring girls, motivating them and giving them courage to go out and conquer the world,” says founder, Abbey Curran. She hopes the girls leave with a feeling of accomplishment that they did something amazing and got to experience something not many people get to enjoy.

I’m inspired by the courage and positivity these girls embody. It’s my hope that more in the world will see, experience and embrace this true beauty in life. So, when the time comes for parents to get the shocking news their unborn baby has special needs, they’ll remember “Miss You Can Do It” and realize there’s a wonderful world waiting for their special baby.

Reprinted with permission from the Life Issues Institute.