Special guests flourish at Night to Shine
LITTLE HOCKING — The men arrived in tuxes and the women in gowns, an assemblage that could have been going to the opera. As they entered Saint Ambrose Catholic Church, they greeted friends, classmates, caregivers and acquaintances.
It was Night to Shine, and the guests glittered with an aura of celebration.
Night to Shine was established six years ago by the Tim Tebow Foundation as a ministry to celebrate special needs people in their communities. Now a world-wide effort, on Friday Night to Shine was marked by more than 700 churches around the world. The Washington County night was a joint effort of Warren Local Schools, Saint Ambrose and the Porterfield Baptist Church.
With the two churches just across Schoolhouse Road from each other, Saint Ambrose was used as a staging area, where the 160 guests, each with a volunteer buddy, socialized and had the chance to get nail treatments, make-up and hair styling. Then, in small groups, they were taken by limousine to Porterfield Baptist.
Alexis Palazzo escorted her brother Jonathan to the event. Both are students at Marietta High School.
“He loves bike riding and watching movies,” she said. “This is a really special and great event; it brings a lot of joy to the community. He’s really excited.”
Nearby, Alicia Fogle sat calmly as Vickie Lowe and Susan Meeks applied some finishing touches to her appearance.
“Eye shadow … what about some lavender?” Lowe, an administrative secretary at Warren, asked her as Meeks, from the SJC Salon in Belpre, carefully styled her hair.
Next to her, Taylor Martin’s hair was being arranged by Sydney Wright and Allison Werry as Haylee Morgan watched, waiting for a guest to serve.
Morgan said she was recruited for the event last year by her volleyball coach at Warren, where she’s a junior.
“I help them with hair and make-up; it’s really fun,” she said. “It’s really cool to make everyone feel special; it’s a good experience.”
Kathleen McKinniss of Nails by Kathy in Belpre waited for the next guest to sit for a nail treatment.
“It’s my first year for this, and I love it,” she said. “It’s awesome.”
Next to her was Courtney McFarland, whose daughter goes to Warren High School.
“She helped set it up last year, and when I picked her up and saw everyone’s faces, I just wanted to be part of it,” she said.
Carsyn Cunningham, a Warren student whose tall frame was decked in a tux and topped by a trilby hat, was enjoying the evening.
“It’s very nice, it feels wonderful, a lot of fun,” he said. “And, I get to sing.”
Larry Ryan is director of special education for Warren Local Schools. He found the description of the event on the Tim Tebow Foundation website and decided last year he’d like to try it.
“It was fairly easy to sign up; we needed a faith-based organization to sponsor, and Porterfield Baptist Church stepped up,” he said. Saint Ambrose, he said, became involved as a sort of staging area for the big event.
“It’s 160 guests this year, and each of them has a buddy. They’re ages 14 to 91,” he said.
Nearly 400 volunteers are needed to organize and execute the event.
Porterfield Baptist associate pastor Eric Leeson said the Night to Shine reflects the church’s mission.
“Our heart is the love of Christ for every person,” Leeson said. “They come in on a red carpet, one at a time, introduced with a line of people cheering, showing them they are special.”
The church was set up with activities, games and entertainment to keep the guests in good cheer while awaiting a formal dinner. After dinner each was presented with a crown or a tiara, then the room is cleared for Karaoke and dancing.
At Porterfield church, a series of archways draped with white fabric shaded the long red-carpet runway, as rows of greeters waved signs and took pictures like paparazzi.
“Welcome, Charlie Lucas!” the emcee called as Lucas, with a slight and dignified smile, rolled through the entrance in his wheelchair and down the red carpet, illuminated by camera flashes, one of scores of honored guests celebrated as individuals Friday night.
Michael Kelly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.