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Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Night to Shine: Prom celebrates individuals with special needs By Catherine Godbey Staff Writer Feb 12, 2017

Blogger Comments:  Falkville, Alabama did a wonderful job with some of the very special people in out community last night.  Thanks to all the folks and Pastor Dekich of the Falkville's Fairview and the people who helped make the Prom happen.  We look out for our Specials Needs here in Falkville, Alabama.  What a wonderful way of honoring our Special Needs men and women and those of all ages.




Cheers erupted from the edge of the red carpet as the door to the white limousine opened, 

revealing one of Friday night’s 90 special guests. Hearing the applause and whoops of 

encouragement, Calista Mitchell, wrapped in a flowy, knee-length pink dress with silver 

embellishment, confidently lifted her arms in the air. Walking beneath the cascading lights 

along the red carpet, Mitchell high-fived the spectators and posed for photographs.
  • As guests, some aided by canes, walkers and wheelchairs, emerged from the limousine to the flash of cameras and screams of the crowd, Milan Dekich looked on with a smile.
    “As a church, we are always looking to serve those around us who so often go unnoticed. A Night to Shine fulfills that mission. We are able to encourage and lift up those with special needs and show God’s love to our community in a physical way,” said Dekich, pastor of Falkville’s Fairview: The Grace Place, a host site for A Night to Shine.
    Created by the Tim Tebow Foundation, A Night to Shine celebrates teenagers and adults with special needs by holding proms, complete with a red carpet entrance, hair, makeup and shoe shine stations, a dance floor and the crowning of every attendee as king and queen. A global initiative, more than 75,000 guests attended one of the events held Friday night at 375 churches in 11 countries, including Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Ecuador and Haiti.
    Among the celebrated guests in Falkville were Mitchell, a 31-year-old Hartselle woman living with Down syndrome; David Barrios, a 24-year-old born with Williams syndrome, a genetic condition that impacts learning and development; and Dominique Billups, who suffers the effects of a traumatic brain injury, the result of his head striking concrete during a fight and spending 47 days in a coma.
    “I wanted to be stylish and snazzy and not wear the typical all-black tuxedo,” Billups said, looking down at his green vest and bow tie. “I chose green because that is the color of awareness for traumatic brain injury. I think I look pretty handsome, if I do say so myself.”
    Danielle Hayes and Kelly McAnally oversaw planning for A Night to Shine in Falkville.
    “Serving those with special needs is very dear to me because I have special needs in my family,” said Hayes. “These individuals go unnoticed a lot of times. We need to change that. A Night to Shine is a huge step in that direction.”
    The women headed a team of 250 volunteers, who served as shoe shiners, hair and makeup stylists, caterers, decorators, paparazzi, greeters, disc jockeys and buddies to the guests.
    An audience of parents, grandparents and guardians, cameras in hand, lined the red carpet, stood behind the shoe shiners and hairstylists and sat in chairs along the wall of the dance floor, hoping to capture the moment.
    Kathy Stapleton scrolled through the images on her phone, pausing on the photograph of a young woman posing in a dress with a black top and flowery bottom.
    “She’s so cute,” Stapleton said of her 22-year-old daughter Cheyenne Stapleton, who has Down syndrome. “You know, there is no difference between any of us, special needs or not. We all have the same identical needs and the desire for happiness. There is a lot of happiness here.”
    Vince Barrios, David’s father, agreed.
    “They need socialization, if they don’t have that, they can easily get lost,” Vince Barrios said. “Tonight, they are not lost. They are being seen. They are the stars. David and I have been counting down to this day for weeks. I might be more excited than he is.”
    Fairview sent out 400 invitations to A Night to Shine to group homes, schools and organizations in Morgan and Cullman counties. Individuals in Decatur attended A Night to Shine held at Central Baptist Church.
    To serve as a host site, the churches sent in applications with photographs of the building to prove handicap-accessibility, submitted grants, performed background checks on volunteers and secured the presence of EMTs and firefighters.
    The easiest step, Hayes said, was finding the volunteers.
    “Why wouldn’t I want to do this? It is a great event and a chance to make the guests feel like the kings and queens they are,” said Casey Gill, a hairstylist.
    Randy Maner, a shoe shiner, echoed Gill.
    “I volunteered because it was an opportunity to serve and give, but, instead, I have been the one to receive so many blessings. If it gets any better than this, I don’t think I could stand it. That I was able to play a small part in this night feels very rewarding,” Maner said.
    The night, which lasted from 6-9 p.m., ended with the crowning and a balloon drop. On the dance floor, David Barrios paused briefly to sum up the night.
    “This has been the best day of my life,” he said.
    cgodbey@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2441. Twitter @DecaturLiving.

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