On May 4, a red carpet was rolled out at Lenexa’s Hyatt Place for some very important people.
More than 100 guests of all abilities and ages received the royal treatment at Shine, a prom dedicated to those with special needs.
“A lot of times, special-needs people are forgotten,” said Erin Elwood, director of the event, which was hosted jointly by Lenexa’s Westside Family Church and Foundry Church.
“Prom season comes and goes, and so many times you see those awesome people get left on the sidelines. This night was all about celebrating them and giving them a chance to be a part of that.”
From their first step onto the red carpet until their last dance, prom-goers were given that chance to attend a party where every detail was planned just for them.
When they first arrived in the evening, Shine guests were assigned volunteer buddies, who accompanied them throughout the night to make certain they had a great time.
Once guests and buddies were partnered, their next stop was the “Beautiful You Space.”
In the “Beautiful You Space,” guests had their hair and makeup done, shoes shined, and then picked out accessories. After they finished up with the “Beautiful You Space,” it was time to party.
The evening’s agenda included dancing, dining, karaoke, a balloon artist, a photo booth and comfort dogs to pet and pose with for pictures.
“There’s so much stuff to do here,” said guest Richard Haskin, as he tried on hats with his buddy, Michelle Basile. “It’s awesome. I can’t pick a favorite.”
Basile, who was volunteering at her first special-needs prom, enjoyed herself as much as Haskin.
“This is so heartwarming. It’s good for Richard, but it’s good for me, too,” she said.
The evening also offered the guests’ family members and caregivers a chance to relax and enjoy the festivities. While relaxing in a respite room, they received chair massages and watched their loved ones on the dance floor, thanks to a live video feed.
“I love to see caregivers relax and let down, knowing the people they care for are having a great time and are safe,” said Melody Tener, Shine event coordinator for Westside Family Church.
According to Elwood, it took three months of preparation, hundreds of volunteer hours, and some very significant donations to pull off the event.
“This event happened because people love people, and people want to do good for one another,” she said.
The volunteer team included 80 Foundry members, 50 Westside members and 70 non-church members from the community. The Hyatt Place donated the space, the dance floor was sponsored by a donor and the food was contributed by ACA Catering.
“The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming, unbelievable,” said Deanna Cox, Shine event coordinator for Foundry Church. “Everyone’s hearts are amazing, affiliated with the church or not.”
Seville Skinner, 11, was one of the event’s youngest volunteers.
“Last year, I met some special-needs girls at my school and I love them,” Skinner said.
With this year’s event completed, Elwood and her team have begun plans for 2019’s prom.