'Night to Shine' celebrates the special needs community

MARION COUNTY, W. Va. (WDTV) - South Ridge Church was chosen by the Tim Tebow Foundation to participate in a worldwide celebration where churches across the nation and around the world hold a prom to celebrate individuals with special needs.

The Fairmont church found out about Night to Shine as they were researching how to start a special needs ministry.

"We were interested in starting a special needs ministry at our church, so our family ministry director was doing lots of research for that and she stumbles upon night to shine," said Jennifer Wilson, the communications director for South Ridge church

After being accepted by the Tim Tebow Foundation, the church became one of several hundred churches across the United States and around the world that would celebrate Night to Shine.

Loved ones and caretakers of those with special needs like Sue Godfrey say that while their kids can attend prom at their high schools this event gives them an experience designed to meet their needs.

"They can go to their proms at their school, but of course it wouldn't be designed for them, they wouldn't get as many options," "It's something where they can be in their own setting be around people that they're use to being around every day and just enjoy life an have fun," said Godfrey, who's nephew was a guest at Night to Shine for a second year in a row

Guests could enjoy karaoke, photo booths, and of course lots of dancing. All of this was put together with the help of hundreds of volunteers

"We had about 400 volunteers who have been working on this event, some of them have been working for a few months on this event behind the scenes," Wilson said

And thanks to those volunteers, over 120 guests were able to enjoy an evening made just for them- something the loved ones in their lives say is truly special.

"Anytime anyone goes of their way to make our kids feel needed, wanted, special, it's amazing," Godfrey said

And the goal of Night to Shine is not just to celebrate people with special needs but also to help normalize their experiences.

"Our kids, our people, whether they look different, they sound different, they act different, they're just like you," Godfrey said