By Kelly Youngblood
A local church is hoping to give people with special needs a night to remember.
The First Christian Church in Champaign is hosting “Night to Shine” on Feb. 10, a unique event that offers a free prom experience for people 14 and older with special needs.
Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, “Night to Shine” is held at thousands of churches across the world on the same night to celebrate the lives of people who have physical, mental, or emotional difficulties.
Kathy Garrison, who is helping to coordinate the event at First Christian Church, said the purpose of the evening is to show God’s love for a population that is sometimes overlooked.
“The idea of the event is taking Valentine’s Day from a romantic holiday to one where we’re really showing God’s love for people with special needs,” she said.
Garrison said First Christian Church, which has a special needs ministry, has a passion for the special needs community. That passion is what motivated them to look into hosting “Night to Shine” at their church.
“We really wanted to have an event that was specifically for them. To just kind of celebrate their lives,” she said.
“Night to Shine” guests can expect to walk down a red carpet while getting cheered on by “paparazzi.” There will be a dinner, DJ, dancing, photographer, karaoke and limo rides.
A “salon” will also be on site for anyone who wants to get their hair, nails and make-up done or get their shoes shined.
Guests will receive corsages and boutonnieres and everyone will be crowned Prom King and Queen.
Planning for the event began last fall. Since then, dozens of volunteers from the church and community have come forward to help make the event a success.
Garrison said part of the planning process was figuring out how to accommodate everyone and finding the best way to provide a safe and positive experience for the attendees.
Each guest will be paired up with a volunteer host for the night that will help guide them through the various activities. Garrison said each host has gone through previous training.
A respite room will be open for caregivers to enjoy with food and a relaxing atmosphere.
Professionals who work with the special needs community will be on-site as well as medical staff and security. A sensory room will be open for any guest who needs a break.
Garrison said while the planning has been extensive, the volunteers have been excited to support an event that celebrates the special needs community.
“We want them to feel special and want them to have a great time and just know that we remember them and we see them and they’re treasured and special just the way they are,” Garrison said.