All dressed up in their party best, a record number of people attended the “Night to Shine” prom downtown Warsaw Friday.
Registration, limousine rides and a hair and makeup opportunity took place at First United Methodist Church, with the dinner, dancing, karaoke and photos taking place at Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Anne Petre, local coordinator for the event, said this was the seventh year for the prom locally and the sixth year with WEPC hosting.
“This is our largest year yet. We had 149 people pre-registered, and I noticed a couple coming in that weren’t registered, so we’re over 150 guests this year, so it’s our largest year. It’s amazing,” she said.
Additionally, she estimated they had around 250 volunteers and they planned to feed about 400 people with the food made by the church team. American Table donated chicken tenders.
Samantha Justice and Shawn Buelow enjoy dinner at the “Night to Shine” prom Friday at Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
“We’ve got a lot of large supporters,” Petre said. “... Donations, volunteers, just hours of work and planning. And really that community support, which is huge, and that’s something we’re trying to gather and grow larger to have more of the community involved and know about it and be able to get involved and support us.”
Tammy Stackhouse, one of the organizers for the event, said “Night to Shine” is a prom for children and adults 14 years old and older with special needs. This is the 10th year for the Tim Tebow Foundation worldwide event.
The prom night in Warsaw started at the registration area at the First United Methodist Church beginning at 4:30 p.m. Once the guests - the person with the disability - registered, then they and their buddy got into the limousine, furnished by Elite Whiteman Limo, and took a tour of downtown Warsaw before being dropped off at the main event at the First Presbyterian Church. When they arrive to the main event, there’s a red carpet for them to walk with a line of applause greeting them.
“To be a hosting church - it has to be a church - they have to apply to the Tim Tebow Foundation. Once they’ve been selected, then they have guidelines that they have to host one of these events.
Petre said the foundation provides a number of guidelines, but “they have an amazing planning guide that they put out.” They detail everything, she said, with some of it being mandatory, some of it not, along with options they can do as well.
She said there are 760 churches in over 50 countries participating in the prom.
“So it is a huge thing and it is on one night,” Petre said.
For WEPC, she said hosting the event is a way to show joy to the city and serve the city, nation and world.
“It is a way for us to bring joy, and a lot of times individuals with disabilities are the least of these, they’re the ones that aren’t celebrated. They’re overlooked. That are marginalized in our community. So this is a great way just to highlight that they have a purpose and a life and a joy and they’ve got their likes and dislikes and it’s a great way for them to come and be recognized and just be celebrated for who they are,” Petre said. “For some of them, it might be the first time that they’ve been told, ‘Hey, you matter! You’re important and we love you!’ And that’s what we want this prom to show.”
Guests and their buddies at the “Night to Shine” prom Friday had the opportunity to ride in a limousine. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
After guests and their buddies arrived at the hosting church, they could have dinner prepared by the church, sing karaoke or have their pictures taken in the basement. At 6 p.m., everybody was to move over to the decorated gymnasium for music and dancing.
Stackhouse said everything is provided by local donors, though hosts can apply for some grants from the Tim Tebow Foundation, but the foundation asks that hosts find local sponsors to get behind the event.
“We’ve had a ton of local sponsors, and I can’t list them all,” she said, mentioning a few of them like Maple Avenue Florist, Rice Ford and Scissors Hair Salon that did hair and makeup at Cardinal Services earlier Friday. Warsaw Area Career Center cosmetology students provided hair and makeup at the church, too. “There’s just a host of people that helped to support the event.”
Tina Streby, cosmetology instructor for WACC, brought 12 junior and senior students with her to “Night to Shine” to do hair and makeup. This is the second year the cosmetology class has participated in the event.
She said they were doing “whatever they (the guests) want done, whatever they feel like having done. We fluff up their hair or we curl it, and we put a little makeup on for them to make them bright and shiny for tonight.”
Each prom guest was paired up with a buddy.
“That person is responsible to help them have a good time - to dance with them, to lead them to the different areas that they need to go. Each guest has a card that gives that buddy information about them, whatever their needs might be,” Stackhouse said. “... We don’t survive without buddies.”
Warsaw Area Career Center cosmetology students and instructor Tina Streby (R) provided hair and makeup to anyone attending Friday’s “Night to Shine” prom. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
She estimated they had about 130 buddies for about 150 guests.
“We don’t like to turn anybody away. We do have some guests that are friends or they’re housemates or different things, and so sometimes some of them want to be together, so some of them can be two guests to one buddy,” Stackhouse said.
Along with the volunteers who serve as buddies, there’s the volunteers in the kitchen, those who helped with registration and the volunteers who helped with decorations. Stackhouse estimated it takes over 200 volunteers to host an event like “Night to Shine.”
As part of the plan for the event, there’s a quiet room provided “because sometimes people with special needs, this is a lot, and some of them become overstimulated.”
The prom concluded at 9 p.m., and everybody got to be crowned a king or queen. At about 7:45 p.m., a video was shown where Tebow talks about the event and how special the guests are. Each of the female guests are then given a tiara and the guys get crowns.
She said the prom - which always takes place the Friday night before Valentine’s Day - is just an opportunity to give those with special needs something special.
“So many times the special needs community gets left behind, and so this is our opportunity for them to shine, hence ‘Night to Shine,’” Stackhouse stated.