On Feb. 8, more than 600 churches across the world will hold “Night to Shine,” a prom night for individuals with special needs.
The Fremont Nazarene Church will be one of them.
Several Nebraska churches have held the event in previous years, including Christ Lutheran Church in Lincoln, 1C in Columbus and King of Kings in Omaha.
But this year will mark the first time that the annual event, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, will occur in Fremont.
According to Annie Buesing, office administrator for the Fremont Nazarene Church, it was former lead pastor Aaron Horton who first expressed interest in joining in on the global festivities. Buesing applied in April and the church got the go-ahead in May.
The event invites all those with developmental disabilities, ages 14 and older, to enjoy an event filled with all the glitzy trappings of a traditional prom night. The church believed that hosting the event would help fill a need for those in the area who may have special needs.
“From what we saw, this community didn’t really have any events that were really focused toward them, so that’s what we were really hoping for,” said Church Coordinator Erin Bussen.
On the night of the event, guests will enter the event on a red carpet, surrounded by cheering paparazzi, Buesing said.
At the event, guests can pick up boutonnieres, corsages or crowns. In addition to dinner and dancing, the church is offering karaoke, limo rides, professional photographers and videographers, a photo booth and opportunities for guests to get their hair, nails and makeup done.
“They can just kind of pick whatever they want to do,” Buesing said.
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All guests will be paired with a volunteer buddy who will be their “date” for the night. All volunteers will receive training an background checks.
Meanwhile, the prom will offer a “respite room” for parents or caregivers of the guests. There, they will find a dinner, entertainment and more offerings that church staff is still determining.
The respite room will afford caregivers the security of being in the same building as their loved one, while allowing them the opportunity to connect with others and get some rest and relaxation.
“If you’re a caregiver of a special needs person, you don’t get a night off,” said Bussen. “(On Night to Shine), they’ll be cared for by people who are trained, we’ll have an EMT onsite, and you can have a night to talk to people in your own community, other parents. You can have a night to sit down and have a nice dinner and just chat with them.”
On Jan. 26, the church will host a boutique, where guests can try on donated suits, shoes, ties and dresses that they can wear to the event for free.
The event is driven by volunteer efforts and donations, with some financial help from the Tim Tebow Foundation. Local businesses and organizations have provided various donations, from suits and dresses to balloons to a donated appearance from DJ Divine Entertainment.
There are about 100 volunteers involved right now, but Buesing says that the church is still looking for more.
Those looking to volunteer or attend the event as guests can register at www.nighttoshinefremont.com. There is a $5 fee for a background check, though the church will also accept work-related background checks. Volunteers must attend one of several training dates: Jan. 10 at 7 p.m., Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m. and Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.
For those who cannot volunteer at the event itself, the church is also accepting donated items. There is an event registry at Walmart, and while not everything needs to be purchased there, it can provide a good reference on the items in need: everything from makeup applicators to plates and cups.
The event is complex, with a lot of moving parts, and so it requires significant community outreach and participation — especially if it’s to thrive as an annual tradition, as church officials are hoping.
“it’s kind of like planning a wedding,” Buesing said. “Trying to make sure that you have all the big pieces and they’re all going to come together at the same time, so just a lot of reaching out and making phone calls and stuff like that.”