Smiling young ladies in glamorous evening gowns and handsome young men in tuxedos posed for photos as they waited for limousine rides to the prom Friday night.
Some 275 volunteers coordinated to make the Night to Shine 2024 an evening to remember for about 90 honored guests and their buddies. The event is made possible by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
Organizer Andy Winstead said prior planning made this year’s event run without any major hitches.
“It was a very good event, no negatives we heard,” he said.
Winstead said the Night to Shine wouldn’t happen without an army of volunteers from Wilson and nearby areas.
“We greatly appreciate all that they have done,” Winstead said.
Winstead said guests came from as far as two hours away.
Milbournie Free Will Baptist Church was again the site for prom preparation, where guests had their nails painted, their shoes shined and their outfits completed.
“This is my second year doing it. It is important to the community because it is a good outreach for adults,” said Crystal Stroud of Wilson, who was working to hand out boutonnieres, corsages and lapel pins. “I love the smile on their faces and the glow. That makes my heart smile.”
In the same room, mother Susan Wallace of Rocky Mount expressed her appreciation.
“This means so much to me because it is just a night for our children,” Wallace said. “It is just so nice to see each one of them get encouraged, have their name yelled out and smile. It just makes them feel so special.”
Wallace’s 15-year-old son Connor participated for the second year.
“After coming last year, he was really excited to come this year,” Wallace said. “Each kid processes it differently. I think being with his friends and the buddies that they pair them with (made it special). He is also familiar with it because they are the girls from the school. It really makes all the difference.”
Connor attends Rocky Mount Academy.
“This event is tailored to special needs children, obviously,” Wallace said. “Some of these children would not have as great a time at a traditional prom. Everything is taken down a notch, and it just helps our children enjoy it much more being with their friends.”
The guests were ferried to Shiloh Pentecostal Holiness Church for the dance. Limousines were provided by Stevens Funeral Home, Joyner’s Funeral Home and Sparks Limousine Service.
“Bailey Methodist Church helped out also. They provided our ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ and we had volunteers who came in from there, so those are the three key churches that really kicked in on helping us with the events last night,” Winstead said.
“I am very excited this year because I have a new girlfriend,” said Zackary Jordan of Wilson. “I just enjoy all the fellowship and all the hospitality that everyone has been doing for us.”
Greeter Brittni Webb of Wilson said the experience was fulfilling.
“It has been amazing to see all the smiling faces and what we are doing for everybody to feel special for this evening,” Webb said. “I felt like it was in God’s work to come and be a part of such an amazing function to bring joy to these people’s hearts and faces.”