Paralyzed ex-football player accompanies senior to her prom

EAST HANOVER, N.J. (AP) A high school senior with cerebral palsy went to prom with a former Rutgers University football player who was paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury in a game.

Eric LeGrand accompanied Gianna Brunini to Hanover Park High School's prom on Thursday night, NJ.com reported (http://bit.ly/1tmQdr8 ).

Brunini, 18, has been in a wheelchair since being diagnosed at 2, and she befriended the 25-year-old LeGrand when they attended therapy sessions. They bonded over therapy dogs and racing down hallways in their motorized chairs.

''Eric is an inspiration for her. Sometimes she gets down and frustrated because of things she can't do,'' Brunini's mother, Maryann, said. ''But if he (LeGrand) can believe, she can, too.''

LeGrand, who has championed spinal cord research since suffering a paralyzing injury during a 2010 game, gave a motivational speech at Brunini's school last month and asked her up to come up on stage in front of other students and staff members. That's where LeGrand asked her to the prom.

''I didn't need all that. I told Eric I would have said yes if you just asked me for a cup of coffee,'' Brunini said. ''The funny thing is that neither of us drink coffee.''

Brunini dressed in glimmering turquoise for the dance. More than two dozen family and friends clapped and shouted as she came out on the deck to meet LeGrand.

LeGrand's mother helped put on the corsage and flower lapel, and Brunini and her family presented LeGrand with Rutgers cufflinks as a sign of their appreciation. The pair then rolled down a red carpet and off to Brooklake Country Club for the night.

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Information from: NJ Advance Media.

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