Kaitlyn King, a Harbor Creek High School senior, has watched her special needs sister endure bullying for years. After watching a pageant on TV featuring girls with special needs, she felt inspired and wondered if an event like this in our area would help girls like her sister.
King, Co-President of the HCHS Speech & Debate Team, approached her team’s coach, Julie Gillespie, and asked if it would be possible to put on such an event at her school to make young women with special needs feel beautiful, loved and important.
The Ever So Lovely Pageant was born.
This year’s second annual event is set to begin at 6:30 tonight, February 10, at the Harbor Creek High School auditorium. Admission cost is just $5 per person and proceeds benefit the HCHS speech and debate team trip to the grand national tournament in Baltimore. Members of the team help King with organization and execution of the pageant.
The pageant is open to special needs girls and young women ages 5-35. Participants pay nothing to participate and many skills and services are donated to ensure that no girl is left out due to financial hardship.
“I watched my sister miss out on a lot of things just because of her exceptionality,” said King. “They deserve a night like this.”
“Sue [Heuvel] from Old Station One Restaurant donates dresses from a prom dress collection to any girls who need one, and two photographers donate their time to make sure there is a good quality photo of each contestant. Hair stylists donate their talents with hair and makeup needs,” said King. “There’s no girl who won’t participate because of lack of finances.”
This year’s event features more contestants than last year’s first ever pageant at HCHS, and King explained that even though the pageant is run like a “real” pageant, what the contestants don’t know is each one of them will receive a crown, sash and flowers at the end.
Girls from around the area will participate, including North East and Harborcreek residents. King said the atmosphere the night of the pageant includes a great deal of excitement and nervousness…not just for the girls but their parents too.
“They’ve watched their kids be bullied all their lives and they’re sending them out with a stranger and hoping for the best,” said King. “There’s a lot of excitement and they’re sad too…they gave up their dreams when their child was born with a disability – of their daughter being a star cheerleader, gymnast, or athlete.”
King, the daughter of Renee Krineski and Roy King, said the Ever So Lovely pageant helps spread awareness and compassion regarding individuals with special needs.
“I just want people to understand the point of the pageant is not only to let the girls show off their ability and talent but just because they have disabilities doesn’t mean they’re not like us. They feel, they hurt, just like us.”