People with special needs celebrated at Night to Shine

PADUCAH — Friday wasn’t a typical night at Heartland Church. Rather than a church service, it was host to a prom event honoring some great guests.

Hundreds of people with special needs were honored and celebrated at Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs. Each participant is pared with a buddy for the night. This year was Leigh Ann Siener’s second year volunteering as a buddy. Last year, she was paired with Edward Burkeen. They formed a friendship that continued into this year.

“Tonight I was secretly hoping to have him again — that we would meet. When we walked in, we spotted each other. He waived, and I was like ‘We’re going to do it again!'” says Siener.

Guests get the full prom experience at Night to Shine. They start out by getting a corsage, then head to, hair and makeup, take pictures, and of course, the pre-prom dinner. Participants enter the dance hall on the red carpet with paparazzis. Once they get done there, they hit the dance floor. Brian Phelps with Heartland Church says it’s a joy to have a night to celebrate people with special needs.

“For some of them, this is their first time they have ever experienced anything like this, and so that’s incredible,” says Phelps.

That’s the case for Laura Cornwell.

“This is my first prom experience that I’ve ever done,” says Cornwell.

Cornwell says she’s thankful for the Tim Tebow foundation, which founded Night to Shine in 2015.

“A lot of organizations, they don’t really take time, I think, to see people with special needs,” says Cornwell.

Siener says Night to Shine has one bug purpose. “We all love him. They are special. God created him in his image, and so tonight it’s just about them,” Siener says.

Heartland Church was one of 700 churches world wide to host a Night to Shine.

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