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New Kensington Camera Club's gift gives girl channel for artistry

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Courtesy of Wendy Marchese
Gary Sprague, vice president of the New Kensington Camera Club, presents a new Canon DSLR camera to Alicia Hruby, 17, of Monongahela on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, as part of the club's inaugural Cameras for Kids scholarship program. Alicia was diagnosed with a rare combination of autoimmune diseases that necessitated a liver transplant in 2015 and caused other problems that sometimes requires her to use a wheelchair.

A gift from the New Kensington Camera Club will help foster one of the artistic outlets still available to Alicia Hruby when pain and numbness sap her strength.

Once a prolific dancer and gymnast, the Monongahela teenager had to give up her more strenuous activities five years ago when she was diagnosed with a rare combination of autoimmune disorders that seriously damaged her liver and other organs.

A liver transplant came in the nick of time to save her life in March 2015.

But damage already done to her young body left her with numbness and pain in her extremities and some organs. She has digestion problems and sometimes needs to use leg and wrist braces or a wheelchair.

Alicia, 17, sat in her wheelchair and wore a medical mask Monday when the New Kensington Camera Club named her the inaugural recipient of their Cameras for Kids scholarship.

The organization presented Alicia with a new Canon DSLR camera and tripod. The members also offered her all the photography help she could ask for and the opportunity for a show of her work once she has a chance to use her new gear.

“I'm smiling under here,” Alicia assured the group, before removing the mask and trying out the camera.

Alicia also enjoys art but sometimes finds it difficult to do the more intricate drawing and carving she enjoys when her hands tire.

Holding a camera is easier.

“I've always been into photography,” Alicia said. “I love taking pictures because I have an eye for looking at different things.”

Gary Sprague, the camera club's vice president, said Alicia was a natural when he and club member Bob Sudy lent her their cameras during the Rock for Life benefit concert series.

Alicia was a beneficiary of the annual concerts held in Indiana County to raise money for people suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

She and her parents, Tim and Donna Hruby, continue to be involved in the concerts: “It's like our second family,” Tim Hruby said.

The concerts are how Alicia was connected to Sprague and Sudy, and through them to the New Kensington Camera Club.

“She's an amazing young woman,” said Bob Sudy's wife, Tami Sudy, a volunteer with Rock for Life. “She lives life to its fullest. She's given us a new outlook.”

Tami Sudy isn't a photographer but enjoys Alicia's skill and perspective. Sudy raved about one of Alicia's photos of a row of colorful test tubes: “She turned it into a rainbow.”

Alicia said she likes to photograph living things, especially butterflies, as well clouds, the sky, fire and anything else that catches her eye.

Alicia said she was honored to receive the camera equipment; she said she was expecting something more along the lines of a simple point-and-shoot camera.

Tim Hruby joked that he was relieved to see it had a neck strap to ensure she wouldn't drop the expensive gift if her hands tired.

“It looks natural around her neck,” Donna Hruby said.

Camera Club president Don Henderson also presented Alicia with one of the club's commemorative coins that includes an inscription of Eddie Adams, a New Kensington native who won a Pulitzer Prize for his photography during the Vietnam War.

“He's been an inspiration to a lot of us here, and I hope he's an inspiration to you as well,” Henderson told Alicia.

When Henderson and Sprague said they hope to make the Cameras for Kids scholarship an annual program, Tim Hruby handed over a cash donation toward next year's gift.

Liz Hayes is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at [email protected] or 724-226-4680.

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