Gillian Deans: A Texas Beauty That’s Just as Lovely on the Inside

On Friday, Feb. 10, 375 churches from across the globe transformed their facilities into a red carpet experience, complete with limousines, hair and makeup stations, and flashing cameras as part of Night to Shine.

Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is a memorable prom experience created for children with special needs ages 14 and older. This year, more than 75,000 guests of honor attended these special events held everywhere from Alaska to Albania.Stealing the show at one such event in Plano, Texas: Gillian Deans, a gleeful, affectionate 17-year-old who has never met a stranger. Born seven weeks premature, Gillian entered the world with a slew of health obstacles—including half of a brain, as well as diagnoses of epilepsy, chronic respiratory failure and anophthalmia (Gillian was born with one eye). Doctors warned Gillian’s parents that the chances of her surviving past her first birthday were slim—but Gillian had a different plan.

Proving the doctors wrong—even after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 4 years old—Gillian wasn’t going to let a diagnosis slow her down. Now in 10th grade, Gillian began receiving care from Epic Health Services, a provider of home health care services to medically fragile children, in 2008. Flash forward to current day: Gillian has recently been declared healthier than she has been in years, a breakthrough Gillian’s mother, Kimberly Deans, credits to the power of prayer and the strong partnership that exists between Gillian and her nurses at Epic.

“Gillian inspires me because she goes through so much every single day,” says Kimberly. “She constantly has new obstacles to overcome, and she’s still a happy girl.”Such was the case at Night to Shine, as Gillian reveled in the spotlight. “She’s a beautiful girl and she knows it,” Kimberly says.

Between posing for the cameras, dancing and showing off her hair and makeup styles, Gillian especially enjoyed being around the other kids with special needs since she loves to chat and hold their hands.

This positive attitude is what also led Gillian to attend the North Texas Angels Pageant in March. Created to honor children and adults with special needs, the noncompetitive pageant provides attire, hair and makeup services, manicures and photo ops for participants free of charge. “She loves to be in the spotlight,” Kimberly says.
When her calendar isn’t booked with fancy parties like these, the Disney lover also enjoys bowling, church and swimming—now more than ever since her doctor released her to participate in aqua therapy again. Gillian also welcomed a new addition to her family: a friendly cat named Stitch. “Of course it has to be a Disney theme,” Kimberly says. You could even say Stitch was made for Gillian, since the feline lacks the skittish quality found in many cats and instead finds comfort with Gillian, despite her breathing machines and other medical equipment.
One day, Gillian dreams of attending a Disney cruise. Until then, you can bet she’ll continue inspiring those around her. As Kimberly puts it, “She’s totally dependent on us for every need that she has, yet she’s still a happy camper.”

And that’s a message we can all learn from.

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Rachel Russell
About Rachel Russell 2 Articles
As the Marketing Director for Epic Health Services, Rachel oversees all strategic marketing and communications initiatives for the company, both internal and external. She has been with Epic for the last two years. Prior to her time at Epic, Rachel served as the Marketing Director for Harden Healthcare and the Manager of Foundation Branding and Communications for Scott & White Healthcare. She began her career working at a boutique PR firm in Fort Worth, Texas, and then in marketing for a financial services company. A graduate of Baylor University’s Professional Writing Program, Rachel went on to complete her Masters of Science degree in Advertising & PR from Texas Christian University.