LINWOOD — It was time to sparkle and a Night to Shine for nine Mainland Regional High School students who are part of the multiple disabilities program at the school.
They, along with volunteers left the halls of Mainland to go to the Fresh Start Church in Egg Harbor Township where a very special evening was planned, a prom put together for special students ages 14 and up by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
“A Night to Shine” was glitz, glamour and fun for students from around the region at Fresh Start Church, one of 721 churches in 50 states and 34 countries holding the same event on the same day for disabled students. The Tim Tebow Foundation organizes this special prom on the same night around the globe to share the message that all of the students are someone special and have a special place in life, according to information provided by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
At Mainland, the girls arrived early to get their hair, nails and makeup done. Theresa Zentmeyer is an aide at Mainland as well as a stylist. Zentmeyer was putting the finishing touches on Emily Flatley’s makeup Friday evening.
“I love these kids,” said Zentmeyer. “When I heard what was planned, I wanted to help so I volunteered to get them ready for their big night.”
Flatley was all smiles in her sapphire blue dress, and she said was going to sing all the songs at karaoke at the event.
Emma Edelman was excited to attend “A Night to Shine.” For Emma, dancing was going to be a big part of her night. Victoria Poley was so excited to go and equally excited about her pretty dress and fancy nails that special education aide Taylor Klever had done for her.
Joanne Goldberg, supervisor of the MRHS Child Study Team along with special education aides Veronica Fath and Erika Melhorn served as volunteers and accompanied the students to the “Night to Shine” event.
Goldberg said the school has never been involved in an event like this. She said each of the volunteers had to attend a two-hour training session and each person had to have clearance by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
The very special evening included the students entering the church hall on a red carpet. There was music and dancing, karaoke, hair and makeup stations, a shoe shine station for the guys and plenty of food and fun. Each of the special guests would also be crowned kings and queens of the prom during their Night to Shine. There was also a sensory room for those students who are more comfortable in a calm and quieter environment.
But just as the kids enjoy their evening, their parents were not left out. The Tim Tebow Foundation recognizes that parents of special needs children often need some time for themselves but rarely get it. The foundation set up a room equipped with big screen TVs so they could see what their kids were doing while enjoying some time to relax, meet other parents, get a massage or have something to eat.
“It’s important for our parents to have a chance for a special evening as well,” Melhorn said.
For the nine students that headed to Mainland on Friday to get ready for their special prom and “Night to Shine” it was also a night to remember.
As they left the school, the students were surprised with a red carpet-lined hallway where cheerleaders along with members of just about every Mainland sports team clapped and cheered as the promgoers headed out the door.
Friends Frank Mullin and Aneudy Valero were all smiles as they walked near the bus ready to whisk them off to the event with Valero declaring Friday as his favorite day, ever.