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Attendees shine during annual dance

Night to Shine gives locals prom night experience

GTNS photo by David Hotle

Teresa Munn and son Russ enter the annual Night to Shine Friday evening through a tunnel of lights set up at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
GTNS photo by David Hotle Teresa Munn and son Russ enter the annual Night to Shine Friday evening through a tunnel of lights set up at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
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When Terry and Kelly Harris brought their daughter Rachel to the second annual “Night to Shine” event Friday evening, Feb. 8, Rachel could hardly believe all the decorations adorning the Knights of Columbus Hall.

As the family moved in, a “buddy” came to take Rachel for the evening. Each of the guests at the annual nationwide prom for the developmentally disabled has a friend to ensure they enjoy themselves during the dance. As the Harrises moved into a side room while the event was being held, they couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next.

“I think it is pretty fancy,” Terry Harris said. “Everything looks amazing.”

Night to Shine, sponsored nationwide by the Tim Tebow Foundation, was held simultaneously with hundreds of other towns throughout the United States. It is intended to be an unforgettable prom night experience for people with special needs and is hosted by churches in all 50 states.

In the Washington branch of the event, over 300 people packed into the dance hall, with about 200 being volunteers and family and the other 100 being the guests of honor. The hall was almost filled to capacity. During the inaugural event in Washington in 2018, about 72 guests attended. Organizer Ann Williams said not all the guests were able to attend the event due to the icy weather that entered the area earlier in the week.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “The decorations in here are great. it is just like attending a royal prom.”

Jay Vaughn, of Mt. Pleasant, was one of the honored guests at the event. He proudly wore one of the crowns given out to all the guests. He marveled at the lighted hallway leading into the dance hall, which was the decoration committee’s take on the red carpet people would go down to enter. This was his second year attending the event and he plans to be back for as many more as they have.

“I love it,” he commented. “They have good food and good people here.”

Vaughn’s buddy, Tonya Takyi, was also amazed at the opulence of the decorations. A direct service provider at Optimae in Mt. Pleasant, this was her first year attending the event and even from outside the building she knew that the guests were in for a special night.

“I was in awe,” she said, “I was amazed coming in. This is going to be a great night for all of them.”

Russ Munn also attended the event in 2018. He commented that he was amazed at the setting for the event. Teresa Munn, Russ’ mother, also said she loved the event.

“It’s a great event and Washington has always been kind to people with special needs,” she said. “This is just another area where they go above and beyond.”

Williams said the Night to Shine would definitely return for a 2020 event. Plans are already in the making, she said.