Abigail “Abby” Burg was a young woman of remarkable talent. A gifted musician with a beautiful voice, she was an accomplished student and world traveler. As large as her talent was, her care, compassion, and commitment to others were even larger. Abby chose to dedicate her life to helping youth—as a counselor, teacher, mentor, and friend. Sadly, she died at age 24 in a water accident near Austin, Texas, where she was working as a bilingual counselor with middle school students. Though her time in our world was all too short, Abby left a mark far beyond her years.
Born and raised in New York City, Abby soaked up the vibrancy of life as a ‘city kid.’ From a very young age, music filled her world. She loved to sing—wherever she was—at home, with friends, in several vocal ensembles, just about anywhere. From the age of 11 until her high school graduation, Abby sang with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC), performing at some of New York’s most famous venues including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Her beautiful soprano voice rang out at Carnegie Hall, in Abby’s solo performance with her fellow YPC members—with whom she also toured Europe and Japan.
Abby sang throughout her college years at Tufts University—in the acapella group known as Essence and in the university chorus. Music was Abby’s vehicle for connecting with others—her way of bringing harmony and beauty to those around her. Abby graduated from Tufts University with a major in Child Development and a minor in Latin American Studies. In high school and college she interned with several social service agencies helping children and families navigate the complex systems to ensure that they got the services they needed. Her junior year in college was spent in South America. She studied in Buenos Aires and traveled throughout neighboring countries. She loved to travel and was learning Portuguese with the plan to return to South America as a social worker. In her senior year at Tufts, Abby was selected for the inaugural Honos Civicus, a prestigious honors group for Tufts seniors with a record of outstanding civic engagement. For her capstone project, she worked with Latino youth in the Somerville, MA chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Abby created a curriculum that helped youth explore the concept of leaving a legacy in their communities. She emphasized the importance of higher education in achieving their life goals.
Abby believed deeply in the power of role models to make a difference in the lives of young people. This conviction led her to become an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Cesar Chavez Foundation in San Antonio, Texas where she directed a learning center at a housing development sponsored by the United Farm Workers. She was beloved by her many children and colleagues. The next year, Abby worked at Bedichek Middle School in Austin, Texas where she again worked with Spanish speaking youth. She mentored and counseled middle school students at risk for dropping out of school, by providing them with support and comfort within their school. Abby was a passionate advocate on behalf of her students, who knew they could go to her with any issues they were facing. At the time of her death, Abby was about to embark on a milestone in her life and career—a Master’s program in Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin, where she had been awarded a full scholarship by the Hogg Foundation’s program for bilingual students in advanced social work programs.
Abby’s spirit lives on in the many people she touched—from the children whose lives she touched, to the colleagues she taught and learned from—and the diverse audiences fortunate enough to hear her sing.
There is yet another group that Abby enriched, as her final gift to humanity—the 170 recipients whom she assisted, and in some instances saved—as an organ and tissue donor. However, no one feels more blessed than Abby’s legion of friends. Everywhere she went and in everything she did, Abby connected with people. She loved to bring her friends together for parties, movies, and nights out dancing—with that all too rare abandon of feeling as though no one was watching. Her gift of humor and generosity of spirit were as striking as her vibrant red hair. Her parents, Jean and David, believed she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to—and encouraged her to pursue her dreams to the fullest. Her older brother, Noah, was her trusted confidant—whom Abby often turned to for advice as she navigated early adulthood. Abby adored her nephew, Isaac, who was a constant source of fun and joy for her.
It is not because Abby died, but because she lived that Abby’s Children came to be. Our hope is to continue honoring Abby’s memory and life’s work by making a positive impact on children and families in need.