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Stars came out for annual Night to Shine prom

Stars came out for annual Night to Shine prom

February 9th, 2019 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Rachel Wheeler is escorted into the A Night to Shine event, a prom for people with special needs, Friday at Capital West Christian Church. Members of the Jefferson City Fire Department escorted guests into the dance. As guests made their red-carpet entrance, they were provided with crowns and corsages and had the option to take part in shoe shines, makeovers, limo rides and a buffet dinner before the dancing began.

Photo by Jenna Kieser /News Tribune.

Their faces glowed as about 170 guests of Friday's Night to Shine entered Capital West Christian Church.

For the fourth year, the church hosted the annual prom for people with special needs.

Gallery: 2019 Night to Shine

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There was so much excitement for the Jefferson City prom, reservations reached capacity early in the process.

The event was one of about 650 sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The foundation puts on the events to serve people with special needs who are 14 and older.

The guests who have attended the night before look forward to it all year, according to Shelly and Steve Feeler, who have two children who are guests there each year.

Their daughter, Delaney, begins getting really excited about it about two weeks before the prom.

The event allows the guests to experience the prom they may never have had. The men wear tuxedos; the women wear evening dresses. They are primped and photographed and treated like royalty. Every guest receives a crown.

Guests are greeted at the door by Jefferson City Fire Department personnel wearing their dress uniforms. Then, guests are announced and escorted down a red carpet into the building.

The entire time, paparazzi shoot their photographs. All guests receive glamour shots that are framed and sent home with them.

"I love it so much," Amira Maute said. "Absolutely everyone here is so nice."

The 14-year-old wore pink chiffon to the prom.

"They compliment me. They tell me I'm gorgeous," Maute said.

That's part of the fun for guests, Steve Feeler said.

"We've come here every year for this," he said. "People are incredibly helpful and loving to these kids. And they just show them a good time."

The prom included about 400 volunteers, who helped apply makeup for the women or worked on a karaoke stage or simply escorted the guests throughout the evening.

While the prom occurred, their caregivers got a short respite. About 150 caregivers remained nearby — across Fairgrounds Road at the Church of Christ. There, they were able to rest and eat, and if they wanted, they could watch the prom on a closed circuit feed, said Todd Tellman, director of Jefferson City's event.

The events across the country hosted more than 100,000 guests, Tellman said, using more than 200,000 volunteers.

"All across the country, this prom is being done for special needs adults," Shelly Feeler said. "From a parent's perspective, you can see them having a great time without having to be involved."

Besides, she said, if the parents get involved, their children suddenly become bored with it.

"They love to have somebody else paying attention to them," Steve Feeler said. "They want to feel normal. Delaney is just so happy to be around people. The social barricades are completely gone with them."

Dustin Pryor said he attended the prom last year. Pryor wore his crown over the top of a tall black top hat.

"This is really awesome to me," he said. "I get to meet a lot of good people. There's a lot of good people."

James DeClue waited as patiently as he could for his turn to perform karaoke. He had told the disc jockey what song to play — "Someday," by Nickelback.

"It's one of my favorites," he explained. "The artist's girlfriend ends up trying to leave him. He tries to make things right and fix mistakes."