By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Tim Tebow, a former NFL quarterback-turned professional baseball player, hopes to transform the Friday before Valentine’s Day into a declaration of God’s love, especially for people with special needs. Game on, say volunteers who organize “Night to Shine,” a memorable prom experience for people with special needs ages 14 and older.
This year’s prom will be held Feb. 9 across the nation and in 11 countries. Two churches in Davenport have been chosen to host their second Night to Shine prom. Our Lady of the River Parish (OLOR) in LeClaire will host one at Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Davenport will host one at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Davenport. Both events will be held from 6-9 p.m. The two churches are coordinating efforts to provide a memorable prom experience for people with special needs throughout the region and introduced Night to Shine in Iowa last year.
“My hope is that we increase our honored guest list as well as our volunteers this year,” said Jennifer Hildebrand, lead organizer of OLOR’s event. “I would love to see volunteers from other parishes in the Diocese of Davenport get involved as a volunteer or register as an honored guest.” Last year, some guests came from long-term care facilities to enjoy the prom. “Think outside the box and invite someone. Everyone is invited to participate, but everyone needs to register online at qcnight2shine.org,” Hildebrand added. The event is free to guests or volunteers.
To date, 175 guests and about 125 volunteers have registered for the OLOR event. Each guest has a “buddy” volunteer for the prom, which requires an equal number of guests and buddies. “We hope youth groups/high school students consider registering as buddies. That was one of the most popular volunteer positions from what we heard last year,” Hildebrand said.
“If you only have an hour or two, you can volunteer with welcome and check-in or distributing the flowers for our guests, food service, dance, floor duty or there is always clean up! What ever your gift or talent, we have a job for you!” Training sessions for volunteers will be offered Feb. 5 at Rhythm City Casino from 6-8 p.m. and Feb. 6 in the Adler Auditorium at Genesis Heart Institute in Davenport from 6-8 p.m.
“I had the pleasure to volunteer for the Tim Tebow Night to Shine prom last year at the Bettendorf Convention Center. All I can say is wow!” said Dan DeVries, vice president of Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home in Davenport. “The participants, whether young adults or a little older adults, smile like teenagers off to their own true blue high school prom night. I think we take for granted the simple things that take place in our lives, even though prom was probably a pretty big deal back when we attended. These folks are so proud and puff up like peacocks as they grace the Red Carpet with their date or friend with whom they have chosen to attend the prom event! The ‘Royal Treatment’ they receive … is so special.”
DeVries, of Holy Family Parish in Davenport, helped to provide limousine service at the event along with Tim Dugan of St. Mary Parish in Davenport and Brian Dugan of Our Lady of the River. “We would help the prom attendees into and out of limousines with their care givers or sometimes parents assisting…. We’d take off for a fun-filled ride and arrive at the front of the building where they were greeted with a Red Carpet and many flashing cameras. It’s absolutely beautiful. I usually had my passengers’ input into the music I played during our ride and, boy, did we rock on and sing the whole way!!!! They often laughed, giggled and belted out ‘cool,’ ‘this is awesome,’ we ‘rock.’ I am proud to have been asked to volunteer and can only wish more people would help in some way.”
Hildebrand shared her biggest takeaway from last year’s Night to Shine: “I see this event at the core of Catholic Social Teaching, particularly ‘Life and Dignity of the Human Person.’ On one night, two Quad-City churches hosted Night to Shine and celebrated more than 500 individuals with special needs at two venues.
“The best part is that volunteers and guests enjoyed the event together and in many instances you could not distinguish the two. All guests and volunteers come dressed in prom attire and enjoy a meal, dancing, karaoke, limo rides and more, together. The honored guests are pampered from the minute they walk in the door until they leave with a crown on their head and a gift bag in their hand.”
Night to Shine fast facts
What: Night to Shine prom event
When: Friday, Feb. 9, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Rhythm City Casino Resort, 7077 Elmore Ave., Davenport; Trinity Lutheran Church and School, 1122 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport
Who’s invited: People with special needs and volunteers, ages 14 to senior citizens
Cost: Free; meal, crown and gift bags provided