Photos provided by Shine Prom
A TIME TO SHINE
The stretch limo pulled to a stop amidst the sounds of live music. The driver opened the door and with a little help from friends, Opelika resident Dallas Henderson, then 18, began his journey down the red carpet. Dressed in a black tuxedo and red accessories including top hat, bow tie, cummerbund and patent leather shoes, Dallas was ready for prom.
Not just any prom. Shine Prom. Dallas lives with several complex medical conditions including NF1 and an unknown form of Skeletal Displysia which confines him to a wheelchair. But on this night, draped by his stunning date, Dallas was ready to party.
“When the Tim Tebow Foundation began hosting ‘Night to Shine’ proms for teens and adults with special needs in 2014, God placed a desire in my heart for our special-needs community to enjoy a similar prom,” says Shine Prom coordinator, Lori Fuller. “After several years of admiring heartwarming prom videos, God kept prompting my heart.”
The nudges resulted in a few conversations and then a gathering of interested parties. “My first call was to Sam Bailey, director of Opelika Sportsplex. He expressed a mutual desire and generously offered to host the prom at no cost. As marketing director of Chick-fil-A TigerTown, I asked owner Andrew Barnes if we could organize and sponsor the event, and he quickly agreed,” says Fuller. Numerous area businesses, individuals and foundations, including the Hudson Family Foundation, helped make the dream a reality.
Auburn resident Johnny Edwards, 24, says his favorite part of the night was the chicken dance. “Makes me happy, Daddy!” he gushed to his father John. Johnny lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Johnny was so proud of his tux. It made me cry to see him wearing it. He still talks about it every time we drive by the tux rental store,” says John.
Three hundred and fifty volunteers rolled out the proverbial and actual red carpet for some 120 guests at the first annual Shine Prom on Oct. 14, 2017. Special guests such as retired Major League pitcher Tim Hudson, Auburn University head baseball coach Butch Thompson, the Chick-fil-A cows and local team mascots greeted attendees aged 13 to 83 years young. Guests were escorted down the red carpet which was lined on both sides with photographers, television cameras and cheering volunteers, including area athletes, dance teams, coaches and beauty pageant queens. Guests proudly wore crowns, tiaras, corsages and boutonnieres as they enjoyed eating dinner and dancing the night away to their favorite songs played by DJ Ozz.
Sharon Glyn-Henderson says her son Dallas loves to dress up. “If it attracts the ladies, he is going to give them what they want.” She adds that she loved the special night for those with special needs. “Everyone needs a night to let loose, hang out and enjoy themselves. Shine Prom does just that in so many ways. We’re so glad it does,” says Henderson.
Plans are well on their way for the second annual Shine Prom which is planned for Nov. 17, 2018. Fuller encourages interested volunteers, sponsors and guests to go to www. shineprom.com for details. Registration begins Sept. 17. Guests and volunteers must be at least 13 years old by Nov. 17 to participate in this free event. “Based on the positive feedback we’ve received, we expect an even larger crowd and community support this year,” says Fuller.