They come decked out in their finery, with flowing gowns and crisp jackets and hair done up just so.
Still, there is a need for some last-minute adjustments, so when the evening’s special guests arrive they take a minute at the “Beauty Station” where volunteers add a touch of makeup or give an extra bounce to the curls, or for a quick stop at the shoe-shine station to put a bit more polish on those dress shoes. To top it off, corsages and boutonnieres are applied.
But it’s not until they enter the gymnasium — where a crowd of friends and familiar faces have gathered on either side of a red carpet, cheering and applauding, bestowing a crown or tiara to the honorees at the end of the long stretch of fabric — that the evening can truly begin, and the special guests can truly shine.
The second-annual “Night to Shine” gave about 100 special guests — persons with disabilities of ages 14 and older from across the North Olympic Peninsula — their own prom experience on Feb. 9 at the Vern Burton Center.
The Clallam event is part of a nationwide program sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation that offers up a free night of dancing, gifts, complementary photos donated by (Imagination to Imagery Photography), a catered dinner and even a chance at some karaoke to each guest, each of whom is king or queen of the prom and assigned a “buddy” to chaperone them for the night.
For the second year, the local “Night to Shine” event was sponsored by Hillcrest Baptist Church and The Crossing Church along with community partners Clallam Mosaic, Camp Beausite and Wilderness Escapes.
The 2017 event was held at Red Lion Hotel-Port Angeles, but was moved to the Vern Burton Center for last week’s festivities.
“It was nice; we have more room,” said Patrick McFarland, a resident of Port Angeles for more than 50 years and one of the evening’s special guests.
“They thought it’d be nice to sponsor a night, do a dance separate from high school (proms).”
While most guests flocked to the dance floor while classics like Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” or contemporary favorites like The Black Eyes Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” pumped through the speakers, McFarland — save for a turn or two with friends and his sister — was content to watch from the sidelines, snacking on a variety of treats.
Between bites, more than a dozen friends stop by to tell McFarland hello and ask how he’s doing.
McFarland is no stranger to events and activities for those with special needs. He’s a long-time member of the Clallam County Orcas’ basketball team and competes in track and field, softball and bowling community events.
“I’m pretty well-known, I guess,” said McFarland, a Port Angeles Walmart employee for the past 17 years, four months.
The event also saw guests let loose with karaoke in the Port Angeles City Council chambers. Not shy by any stretch, McFarland entertained a crowd with his rendition of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Not to be out-done, Tia Bates and Alicia Stuber both leaned on Lady Gaga (“Poker Face” and “Born This Way,” respectively) while Harvey Reise shook ‘em up with Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.”
When Night to Shine launched in 2015, 44 host churches and 15,000 volunteers worked together to honor more than 7,000 kings and queens of the prom. Last year, that number grew to 375 host churches, 150,000 volunteers and 75,000 honored guests.
This year’s “Night to Shine” events were expected to take place in 500 locations in all 50 states and on six continents.
Guests and their “buddies” took a brief pause Friday to watch a video message from Tim Tebow, the former NCAA football star whose foundation inspired the festivities.
“Tonight is all about you,” Tebow said. “You are loved.”