Night to Shine returns to Dodge City for the second year.
Unforgettable memories were made on Friday as the special needs community, their families and additional volunteers gathered at the Dodge City Church of the Nazarene to dance the night away at Night To Shine.
Night to Shine is a worldwide event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The event serves as a “prom” for people with special needs ages 14 and up. This year marks Night to Shine’s second year in Dodge City.
“It was a huge success,” Dodge City/Ford County development corporation special projects coordinator Mollea Wainscott said. “We had 125 guests, and over 250 volunteers. Last year we were at I think about 103 guests, so it was even bigger than last year, which is amazing.”
This event began under the Tim Tebow Foundation to show a different level of appreciation and compassion for the special needs community. This year 375 churches in all 50 states participated in Night to Shine as well as different countries including Albania, Canada, Ecuador, Haiti, Kenya, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Uganda and the U.S.
“I think it’s important to show an underserved population, people with special needs, to serve them and have a night that’s special for them to show them that God loves them for who they are and that they are kings and queens at the prom,” said Wainscott. “A lot of them didn’t attend their own prom, but just to have a night completely for them, for this underserved population and show them God’s love, it’s amazing.”
Before the event began, female guests were welcome to free makeup and hair touchups offered by Beauty Works and male guests were offered a free shoe shine sponsored by Brown’s Shoe Store.
“Beauty Works Salon donated the hair and makeup touchups at night, but they also closed their shop for the entire day and did hair, makeup and nails that day for only Night to Shine guests for free,” Wainscott stated. “The Thursday before, they closed for a few hours and did men’s haircuts for a Night to Shine. There were so many women coming on Friday that they had to do the men’s haircuts on Thursday, and they did that all for free that day too.”
After touchups, guests were royally welcomed to the event with a promenade. The guests then ate dinner with their volunteer buddy and enjoyed many different activities.
“We served them a catered dinner and then they had the DJ and dance floor, of course,” said Wainscott. “We had karaoke, we had a photo booth and then we had limo and trolley rides as well.”
Many members in the Dodge City community came together to make sure this night was special for all attendees.
“It’s sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, but we have multiple families and people and businesses that donate to this,” said Wainscott. “In-kind services like the shoe shine and Beauty Works all the way to the people who donate quite a bit of money so we can have this, just really the community pulling together all for this event is really neat to see.”
Night to Shine representatives also collected prom dresses for the attendees in need.
“I had people contacting me with dresses as soon as they heard about Night to Shine that I didn’t even have to go out and ask for them,” said Wainscott. “My office just gets in-fluxed with prom dresses everywhere and then we match those up with someone.”
Along with all the other perks, everyone who attends Night to Shine will be crowned as king and queen of the prom. Katelyn Unruh, who was recently named as the 2017 Miss Cowboy Capital, crowned the kings and queens who attended Night to Shine.
“I got to meet some awesome people. It was such a privilege to be a part of that and just to be able to crown everybody at the end of the night, I was fighting back tears on that,” said Unruh. “It was awesome just to see their faces and how happy it made them to be crowned and just the message behind it about God’s love for them and that they are kings and queens every day.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that much love and joy in one room before. It was a very humbling experience and it was just so awesome to be a part of that,” she said.
Wainscott stated that the event was such a major success that the attendees are already expressing excitement for next year’s event.
“The guests had a really good time,” said Wainscott. “They said that they’re already ready for another dance next weekend, so they’re ready for next year, they can’t wait.”
Wainscott stated that there was one guest in particular who showed up to the dance to find someone she wasn’t expecting.
“Everything I heard from the guests was positive, I didn’t hear any negative remarks about the event,” said Wainscott. “I did hear, kind of a neat story, we had one guest that her brother surprised her from Wichita. So she got all dressed up, didn’t know he was going to be there, and he drove all the way from Wichita to see her all dressed up and surprised her so that was a really big deal for that guest.”
Night to Shine had a positive impact on many who attended, including the volunteers and families.
“I think it really just draws us back because we get so stressed out and worried about everything, but that night was just pure joy,” said Unruh. “Seeing how much of an impact this had on the special guests, the buddies and everyone who attended, it’s just really eye-opening for us cause we slow down and focus on what’s important.”
Night to Shine is held every year on the Friday before Valentine’s Day. For more information on Night to Shine, visit http://www.dodgecitynighttoshine.com.