On Friday evening students with special needs gathered at Hutchins Street Square to celebrate the second annual Night to Shine prom hosted by Horizon Church.
Before guests and their buddies entered the building, announcers introduced them over microphones, and led them on the red carpet and into the building.
As each guest entered the building, an uproarious crowd of 80 volunteers erupted into cheers and applause. Music played over speakers as guests walked down the red carpet to a backdrop, where their photos were taken.
“Anyone who has never experienced has to, at least once. You feel so much joy, and love,” Amber Brazeal a volunteer from Citrus Heights said.
A lot of work on behalf of the church and its volunteers was done to make the night memorable for guests.
“We have six limos that take each group of guests and drives them around the block before they are escorted on the red carpet,” Brazeal said. “ We make sure they get to have every experience imaginable.”
There was an electric zeal that hung in the air as more guests came through.
“I wish I could explain it, but you feel so happy when you are here, it’s impossible to feel anything else,” Brazeal said.
The indescribable emotion that overwhelmed Brazeal is precisely what inspired senior pastor Tim Stevenson at Horizon Church to host one.
“I remember seeing the video of Night to Shine, and I broke down, and then I watched it again and broke down again, and then I knew we had to do it,” Stevenson said.
Night to Shine is an event founded by the Tim Tebow Foundation in 2015, as an evening to celebrate people with special needs and their families by offering them an enchanting evening.
Every year on the same night, hundreds of churches around the world take part in the event. This year 655 churches participated in 26 different countries
The opportunity to host the event hit a chord for Stevenson because when he was in college, he volunteered to help students with special needs.
“The purpose of tonight is to honor all of God’s creations, and this would not be what it is without the help of our staff, especially Kevin Brown and his sister, Mindy,” Stevenson said.
Brothers Jacob Varney and J.T. Varney sat near the doors of Kirst Hall inside of Hutchins Street Square on Friday evening as they attended the Night to Shine Prom.
Jacob, who is 16 and attends Tokay High School, has a close relationship with his older brother and attended the prom as J.T’s buddy.
Although he is younger than his brother, he is very protective of him because he believes that people with special needs are not treated equally to other people.
“People with special needs are not treated the same as everyone else, and they don’t get to experience things like prom,” Varney said. “But tonight I feel like I can let my guard down, because everyone who is here tonight is the same, and we are all equal.”
Students excitedly gallivanted across the dance floor as guests and their buddies filled the room.
“All eyes were on them, not because of their disability, but because they shined,” said Cindy Parkerson, a volunteer with Horizon Church.
“Students that attend are from all over the area. We get kids from Sacramento, Elk Grove, and Lathrop, and many of them are not affiliated with our church, which is perfect because tonight is about everyone,” said Kevin Brown, the associate pastor of Horizon Church.
A respite room with health care personnel was available to students as a precaution to ensure everyone’s safety.
Due to the specific needs of each student, there were multiple spaces available for students to fit their needs. For students that were overstimulated, there was a karaoke room that they could go to where they were able to dance and sing in a more structured environment.
There was also a quiet room with therapy dogs for students who were more limited either by mobility or health conditions.
“Every parent needs a break, and parents that have a child with special needs struggle to catch a break, so tonight is as much about the parents as it is the children,” Stevenson said.
Parents were given the option to drop off their children, or stay and enjoy dinner, where they could watch their children through monitors to ensure they were OK.
The evening concluded with illusionist John Micheal Hinton, who helped crown guests at the end of the evening with a trick that left guests in awe.