Special needs residents given chance to ‘shine’ at event

NORTH SHELBY – Susan Vicens remembers the joy on the faces of her son, Koa, and his girlfriend Abigail Ledbetter as they danced at their first prom.

Though Koa passed away in 2016, Vicens and Ledbetter found some of that happiness at the Night to Shine event hosted by Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church on Friday, Feb. 7.

Night to Shine is designed to be a prom night experience for people with special needs. The event at OMPC was one of 600 the same night across the country.

After being paired with a “buddy,” a volunteer who experiences the night along with a guest, the guest enters the church while being announced by name and given their moment to shine as they walk the red carpet while being cheered on by supporters including the UAB cheerleaders. Some held signs reading “Child of God” and “Strut Your Stuff.”

“Alright, I’m excited!” one attendee exclaimed before heading into the ballroom.

Once inside, guests receive the royal treatment: corsages and boutonnieres, delicious food and desserts, a karaoke stage with live audience, airbrushed tattoos, photo booths, meet and greet with famous movie characters, limousine rides, dancing and more.

Free hair and makeup service was available for the ladies, and gentlemen could take advantage of a shoe shine station.

A parent/caregiver respite was also available.

Though Vicens knows how much Ledbetter enjoys dancing, Vicens said she might have a different opinion of her favorite part of the night.

“She would tell you the food,” Vicens laughed, but her opinion of the event was serious because it gives people with special needs a chance to shine. “It gives parents a view of what their child can do. Everybody can do anything.”