ODGEN, Utah — Her special prom night is still two weeks away, but Emily Gittins said she already feels like a princess.

That’s because Gittins picked up the dress she’s borrowing for this year’s Tim Tebow Foundation A Night to Shine special needs prom at the Genesis Project Church.

The dress, donated for the event by the nonprofit Celebrate Everyday, is deep blue and teal with a hint of pink highlights, reminding Gittins of the formal attire Cinderella wears in the newest Disney movie about the fairy tale.

“I will feel so beautiful,” Gittens, 32, of Ogden, said. She admitted that before the A Night to Shine event came along three years ago, she had never attended a prom.

“It will be a really good experience,” she said. “I get to go with my husband.”

Jonathan Gittins said going to the prom with his wife has brought them closer together and also helped strengthen their friendships with others.

“There are some that are struggling, so we bring the uplift to them,” he said. “The Night to Shine is special and it just touches me and Emily that we have time to spend time with the others.”

Celebrate Everyday, a two-person nonprofit to provide dresses for girls and women participating in A Night to Shine, is just one of many sponsors helping the Genesis Project Church put the event on for those who otherwise would not be able to attend a prom with their peers.

“We just want to make girls feel as beautiful as they are. We do whatever we can to make that happen,” Hannah Simmons, co-founder of the Celebrate Everyday, said.

Celebrate Everyday gathers the gowns by renting dresses out for other high school proms and weddings for $25, then putting the money into advertising for dress donations. They not only offer free dresses for those in need, but purchase dresses for those who require larger sizes.

Simmons said the smaller-size dresses are often left over from previous prom seasons and donated by dress shops who can write them off for tax purposes.

Emily Gittens is so excited for the big night, she said, that she’s already taken to wearing the earrings she picked out to go with her dress.

“We are going to get our pictures taken when we are all dressed up,” she said of herself and her friend, Jessica Epling, who will double-date with Emily Gittins and her husband.

“We get to frame our pictures every year,” Emily Gittins said. “I put them on top of my entertainment center and talk about them all year long.”

The Genesis Project Church is one of about 450 organizations from all around the world holding a special needs prom Feb. 9. The event is for people with special needs ages 14 and older.

Local organizers of A Night to Shine say it takes about $12,000 to put on the dance. The Tim Tebow Foundation has specifications about providing all guests with special touches like clothing, limousine rides, red-carpet treatment, gift bags and photographs, they said.

Still needed this year are donations of umbrellas, a red carpet, limousine rides, a photo booth, finger foods, hangers and an additional dance floor.


Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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JANAE FRANCIS
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