They Shine Like Stars: Prom for Kids with Special Needs

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The night shone well on February 9, 2018 — for me at least.

Let me explain.

During one Sunday service, our church announced an event called Night to Shine — a prom for kids with special needs by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Christ Commission Fellowship’s Unique Special Needs Ministry invited the congregation to take part in this special event. They needed extra pairs of hands to fulfill roles, such as makeup artists, ushers, registration people, and buddies (aka dates to the prom).

I needed a break from my regular programming. Without any hesitation, I immediately signed up.

I thought I was signing up for something simple. It’s just a prom, what’s the big deal?

Apparently, it was a huge deal.

What is Night to Shine?

The Main Event

Even teen with special needs deserve to experience prom — and that’s exactly what Night to Shine provides.

The event is an unforgettable prom night experience centered on God’s love for people with special needs ages 14 and older. February 9, 2018 saw 537 churches around the world celebrating this amazing night with 90,000 guests and with the help of 175,000 volunteers.

Here in Metro South, CCF Alabang hosted this year’s event, which was also a first for the church. Their search for volunteers started in early January along with the registration for prom participants.

The prom’s goal was to treat these kids like royalty for FREE. They didn’t have to pay anything; all they had to do was appear. The Tim Tebow foundation provided the majority of the financial sponsorship while other generous donors answered the remaining need for funds. Members of the church also pitched in for donations and even gave dresses and suits for attendees in need of prom clothes.

How it All Went Down

Kings & Queens of the Red Carpet

I signed up for the Royal Treatment team, which was in charge of the make-up, hairstyling, and shoe shining. I met up with the other volunteers and discussed our gameplay for the day. We would take charge of the teens who wanted to get their hair and make-up done.

Before the event, volunteers were required to attend training, which focused on proper ways to deal with our guests. We were taught the right way to socialize and treat the kids. The gist of the lesson was simple: treat them with caution, but don’t treat them differently.

The day itself was magical. Guests flocked to the ground floor, signing up for the prom and meeting their buddies. Volunteers got down to their tasks and made sure our Kings and Queens enjoyed the event. They were given corsages, pampered, and peppered with well-deserved compliments.

Even their parents got a well-deserved break. While the kids were enjoying upstairs, they waited in the Parent Room, which had food and free massages.

As the stars of the night, our guests deserved a red carpet entrance. Together with their buddies, they posed and twirled in front of cameras. I shed a tear (secretly) as I watched them own the red carpet as their runway.

I wasn’t able to watch much of the event since I had to stay with the make-up team. Still, we caught glimpses of the actual prom via the live feed nearby. It was fun to watch them dance and sing after dinner. Everyone was having the time of their lives, and we couldn’t be happier.

The night wrapped up with the parents visiting the kids with crowns and tiaras. To remind them that they are the Kings and Queens of the prom and in the eyes of the Lord, we held a crowning ceremony in their honor.

Memorable Stories

All Glammed Up

Of course, the day was not without special moments.

A girl named Sugar approached our makeup booth. Standing proudly with her walker, she asked us if we could glam her up. We said yes, of course.

Sugar’s not her real name, apparently. She gave herself that name when she experienced heartbreak during college. Like any heroine invested in making a personal change, she started moving on by giving herself a new name—Sugar.

Meet Sugar

The heartbreak was the start of all things new for her, she told us. Instead of wallowing in her emotions and giving up, she chose to channel the angst through her music. While we were adding the last touches of lipstick, she told my partner and me that she has already written 12 songs.

“Ganon naman pag feelings di ba? Dapat ine-express? Kaya gumawa ako ng kanta,” (“That’s how it is with feelings, right? You should express them? That’s why I wrote songs), she said.

There was also this girl named Bea who we call “Little Miss Cinderella.” Dressed in her puffy blue gown, she amazed everyone that came across her way. She would twirl and curtsy like a princess, and we loved it.  Another girl named Eunice stunned us with her golden Belle-like dress.

After each make-up session, my partner and I made it a point to compliment them. There’s nothing more precious than seeing their smiles when we tell them how pretty or handsome they look.

The event was one for the books. I remember coming home very tired but also fulfilled. Seeing our guests enjoy prom and dance their hearts out was something else. It also reminded me that everyone is special in the eyes of God and that no one should feel otherwise.

A Night to Shine made my February 9, 2018 memorable. I look forward to volunteering again next year, and I hope you would volunteer too.

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