An Unforgettable Night To Shine: ESE Prom

Keenan Thungtrakul/The Avion Newspaper
Chad and his prom date Tina are escorted up the red carpet by one of the Embry-Riddle Cheerleaders. The red carpet welcome is meant to help the guests feel special and remind them they are loved and indeed precious.

Keenan Thungtrakul/Senior Reporter

In the midst of the hype surrounding the Friday night block party on the West Lawn, a special night was taking place at the Henderson Welcome Center. Embry-Riddle, in partnership with Christ Presbyterian Church of Ormond Beach and the Tim Tebow Foundation, among others, hosted the 3rd annual Night To Shine: an unforgettable prom night experience for those with disabilities and special needs. It is a celebration to remind those who may think of themselves as “unwanted” in our society that they are loved, and that there are others who care about them and want them to have the same opportunities that “regular” people in society have. These people may not have had the opportunity to go to prom in high school or attend a formal while in college, and this event is the result of a large group of caring folks that want to provide such an opportunity for those who are less fortunate. The dance is largely volunteer-run, with over 540 host churches worldwide participating and an untold number of sponsors that helped those that could not afford otherwise attend what could be the time of their life. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation, this year 175,000 volunteers will devote time to create a
timeless experience for nearly 90,000 people with special needs.

Keenan Thungtrakul/The Avion Newspaper / Allacyn, one of the honored guests at Night To Shine, shows off her purse as her assistant prepares to wheel her to a waiting red carpet escort.

Kacie Fuller, the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at Christ Presbyterian, said that this yearly event is not possible without the aid of many volunteers, who work behind the scenes to organize and put everything together. With all that going on, it is hard to imagine how the night would be different without the sacrifice of time. The night began with a royal welcome. Guests arrived dressed up in handsome tuxedos and beautiful prom dresses, and received a crown or tiara to signify their true worth. One by one each guest received a red carpet welcome, with crowds cheering them on and cameras flashing. The looks on the guests’ faces were priceless. They were in for an awesome night. Members of the Embry-Riddle cheer team and Navy ROTC served as escorts for the honored guests, and their names were announced before the crowd as they stepped on the carpet. Some guests who were hearing-impaired received silent applause from the welcome party as they were led up the carpet to the venue entrance. Upon entering the Henderson Welcome Center, the guests were greeted to a variety of activities, from a live DJ to a karaoke stage, artist stations, shoe shining, campus tours, and photo booths.

After a special welcome message by Tim Tebow, the Embry-Riddle cheer team got the dance party started by leading guests in group dance songs such as the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble. Over at the karaoke station, the night began to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” There was an untold number of beautiful performances by both guests and volunteers alike to well-known tunes such as Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart,” and the theme songs from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The dance area featured songs that catered to all dance styles, and everyone there had a chance to take part in the fun. Professional cartoon artists provided autographed portraits of guests, and photographers set up booths to capture those special moments. Navy ROTC helped close out the spectacular evening by inviting guests to dance with them and putting on multiple karaoke performances, including a special cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” with the guests.

Night To Shine was a night to remember for everyone who attended. Volunteers that danced with the guests saw the priceless expressions on their faces which signified they had a blast. One guest, Wyatt, said that this was his first Night To Shine and that he had an unbelievable time that evening. Another guest, Brittany, said that dancing with an Embry-Riddle student whom she saw as a great dancer made her night, and she will not forget the priceless act of kindness. There is no doubt the student will not forget his kindness to her. She and her friend
Amanda both said this was their first Night To Shine, and that they had an amazing time. Both girls expressed their thanks to the student who danced with them that evening, and said they would not forget his kindness and fun dance skills. There is little doubt all the volunteers played an important role in making the night a memory that will live on for months, even years to come.