April McHugh’s daughter Layla isn’t quite old enough to attend the Night to Shine just yet, but McHugh can’t wait until that happens.
“I can’t wait until she’s old enough … we are excited to be part of the ‘behind the scenes’. One day she’ll be there too,” McHugh said.
The third annual Night to Shine, a prom for people at least 14 years old with special needs or disabilities, is set for Feb. 7, 2020 from 6-9 p.m. at The Rock Church, 1701 Church St., in Conway.
The evening crowns attendees as kings and queens, and treats them to an evening of living like royalty.
The Shine-goers get the true “red carpet” treatment as they arrive and walk down a red carpet on their way into the event. They are treated to a sit-down dinner courtesy of many vendors including local pizza vendors, Groucho’s, Big D’s BBQ, Chick-fil-A, Bojangles, Maryland Fried Chicken, and local bakers as well.
Then the night of dancing begins, thanks to DJ Kyle Gore, as well as pre-dance shoe-shining, makeup and nails, and donated rides in a limo from Carolina Limo.
“Kyle Gore only comes out of retirement for Night to Shine and he brings the house down!” said organizer Adrian Robertson said.
Robertson said that this year they are anticipating around 250 people.
McHugh said she “begged” Robertson to let her help, and can’t wait to help to make the party happen.
“I love that The Rock reaches out,” McHugh said. “[They have] reached out to embrace the special needs community as a whole. I love that we are able to provide respite for their caregivers, too. The community really comes together to love on the kids.”
Justin Wilkes has attended the last two Night to Shine events, and can’t wait to come to this one. He said some of his favorite things about it are “the setting, the lights, the music and the dancing.”
His father, Pete Wilkes, said that he likes to see everyone on the red carpet, excited to have their “Night to Shine”.
“They’re not always invited to special events. This is just for them. They are very appreciative and always so joyful,” Mr. Wilkes said. “We love it. We love seeing him dress up and be happy.”
Wilkes said it’s not just a great time for his son, but for his whole family.
The party is expanding into The Rock’s children’s area this year to spread everyone out a bit better, Robertson said.
Caregivers and family are invited to watch the event livestream from the C3 Coffeehouse next door in their respite area, to eat dinner, relax, and have a break of their own.
“We have outgrown the area,” Robertson said, but said they are making extra efforts this year to make things comfortable and relaxing.
A local restaurant donated dinner for the respite area to feed the families and caregivers, and they will also have door prizes like oil changes and photography sessions given away throughout the evening.
Night to Shine was started by the Tim Tebow Foundation six years ago to, according to its website, “celebrate people with special needs.”
Robertson explained that the foundation helps individual churches hold the proms, decreasing the amount of funds provided as the local events become more financially independent. It is a global event that is celebrated in over 650 locations.
Many of the services and products provided at the Conway event are donated or discounted by local businesses, but some of those services and products depend on donations.
As for what the kings and queens will wear, Amanda’s Collection in Conway is generously donating dresses, and The Haberdashery will be helping to provide tuxedos. Those in need of attire can call Leanna or Lizzy at The Rock at (843) 488-1195.
Donations of larger dress sizes 20 and up are still needed, and can be brought to the church as well.
Coastal Carolina University students are anticipated guests this year, that may serve as “buddies” for the kings and queens, staying with them throughout the evening.
“They may play an even bigger part in the evening,” Robertson hinted.
The event takes care of every detail – even providing a sensory-friendly area that will be available for those who need a calmer area than the auditorium.
A few things will be different this year, Robertson said, including a more organized dismissal process that will include a chance for the caregivers and families to join in the celebration at the end.
“Each year we think of things we can do better,” Robertson said.
The event has become one of the most anticipated events of the year in Conway.
“To me, just to communicate to families that experience what I experience with a child with disabilities - people care, and want to do life with them,” Robertson said. “God called us to do life in community. Our kids matter and they are wanted.”
To learn more about the event, or to register as a guest or volunteer, visit www.rockc3.com/shine