People with special needs get Night to Shine at St. Ann Parish (with video)


Mari Pletta

Guests prepare to be crowned king or queen of the Night to Shine prom in the assembly room of St. Ann Catholic Parish on Friday. The Night to Shine prom, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, gives people with special needs ages 14 and older an opportunity to have their own prom experience.

Anthony Cesario, Staff Writer

Many people view prom as part of the “complete high school experience”, but some are not often able to participate in this opportunity. On Friday, St. Ann Catholic Parish hosted the Night to Shine prom for people with special needs ages 14 and older.


Joined by First United Methodist Coppell (FUMC) and The Servant House in Lewisville, St. Ann was one of over 500 churches around the world that came together to host the prom, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.


“I hope that our guests and their parents, who sometimes have difficulties in their lives, had a special night where they feel loved and honored by their church and their community, and especially by God,” St. Ann Director of Children’s Religious Education Debbie Kaluza said. “I also hope to raise awareness of the importance of welcoming everyone, no matter what their differences might be, and treating all people with respect, dignity and love.”


The Servant House was in charge of hosting all the pre-prom activities, including hair styling, makeup, shoe shines and limo rides. FUMC held a boutique where guests could pick out clothes, shoes and jewelry for the prom ahead of time, all of which were donated by people from the community.


“I absolutely love helping the guests that come to the boutique to find the perfect outfit,” FUMC Children’s Minister Kathy Braem said. “I coordinated the making of the corsages and boutonnieres for all the guests. We even had enough items [at the boutique] so that parents and siblings could shop as well.”


As guests arrived at St. Ann by limo, they walked a red carpet and were greeted by enthusiastic paparazzi who cheered for them and took pictures.


“The red carpet at the very beginning of the night is such a special memory for our guests,” St. Ann Sunday School Coordinator Nikki Scancella said. “We pair them up with a buddy and then they get to walk down the red carpet, dressed in their prom attire, being the center of attention while people cheer for them. The smiles on the guests’ faces as they walk down that red carpet is priceless.”


Once the guests entered the church assembly room, they were treated to dinner and a night of music and dancing.


If people needed a break from the crowd, they could sing along with their buddy in the karaoke room, put on funny hats and accessories to take photos at the photo booth, visit the balloon animal room or enter the sensory room to relax.


“I think [the prom] is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the people in our community who sometimes don’t get to take advantage of these fun events,” volunteer Lis Cole said. “My favorite part is seeing them dance. Seeing all the people on the dance floor and how happy they are.”


About midway through the prom, the DJ paused the music to make an important announcement: it was time to crown prom king and queen. After each guest made their way to the front of the assembly room, their buddies crowned them with their own crown or tiara.


As the assembly room erupted with hundreds of blue and white balloons to celebrate the crowning ceremony, there were smiles all around.


“My favorite part is when the guests are crowned kings and queens, and then the dancing that comes after the crowning ceremony,” Kaluza said. “It’s really joyful.”


As the night came to an end, each guest received a gift bag as they left the church, marking the end to an unforgettable prom experience.


“We hope that everyone who attended the prom will truly feel like a king or queen,” Braem said.

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Mari Pletta