People with special needs get Night to Shine at Clark County prom

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

They entered on a red carpet through arches of balloons to the cheers of a gathered crowd as Night to Shine ushered in the local prom season as nearly 90 guests with special needs from ages 14 to 70 were treated to a special night on Friday at Lawrenceville Church of God.

Dancing was just the beginning as the attendees were treated to hair and makeup, shoe-shining stations, limousine rides, karaoke, catered dinner, photo booth and more for free.

>> PHOTOS: It’s prom night for Clark County residents with special needs

Night to Shine is an annual February event done the Friday before Valentine’s Day in all 50 states and 34 countries to celebrate people with special needs and is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. This was the first time since 2020, just prior to the pandemic lockdown, that it has been done in-person.

Lawrenceville Church of God began hosting Night to Shine in 2018. Pastor Alan Cain was excited for its return due to what it offers all involved.

“It’s a big, expensive night but well worth it for the joy it brings to the guests and our volunteers,” he said. “For most of our guests, it’s the highlight of the year, like a gala to them.”

Guests dressed in whatever expressed themselves and were matched with a volunteer chaperone.

One of the youngest attendees sported a SpongeBob Square Pants-themed bow tie and sneakers with his tux, using steps in the church sanctuary to reach the height of his chaperone to dance with her. Some of the men had sunglasses and flashy ties, while many of the ladies wore formals. One was dressed in the 1920s flapper fashion.

Jason Lovitt stood out with his cowboy ensemble, complete with a duster jacket, cowboy hat, boots and even a sheriff’s badge and empty holster. This style wasn’t reserved just for this occasion; it’s part of Lovitt’s everyday ensemble.

“It’s much simpler and easy to get on,” he said. “I’m stuck in the 1850s.”

This was Lovitt’s third Night to Shine. He loves the environment and how polite the people are.

Dale Miller was attending his first event, taking a little of everything in. He beamed at how amusing his caricature turned out and donned bunny ears to get his photo booth pictures with chaperone, Laura Diltz.

He found out about Night to Shine from a coworker and said it would become an annual stop for him.

“Why are there so many cute women around here,” he asked.

Diltz enjoyed her partner’s sense of humor, saying Miller was “killing it” with his jokes and good nature, which he shared with everybody he encountered. It was also her first such event, hearing about it from a friend who attends the church. Diltz wished her nephews with special needs had an outlet like this.

“I know they were looking for help here and thought it would be fun. I’d be glad to be back next year, especially if Dale is here,” said Diltz, a postal worker who lives in Tipp City.

The guests grooved the night away to familiar dance hits from classics such as “Stayin’ Alive” and “Billie Jean” to more recent tunes like Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” Many looked forward to 15-minute rides in stretch limos, the type used by stars traveling to award shows and premieres.

A prom isn’t complete without the announcement of a king and queen. For Night to Shine, all the guests got crowns and tiaras and shared the title.

The event also offered a respite area for parents and caretakers where they could get massages and enjoy their own dining room.

Cain said he appreciated the efforts of everyone involved and the numerous area sponsors who contributed.

“It’s a blast for our guests to be celebrated like this,” he said.

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