Night to Shine is now a signature event for church
In just four years, the "Night to Shine" special needs prom, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, has become one of Newberg Christian Church's (NCC) signature events.
"It's one of the coolest things we've done," Pastor David Case said. "I love it and I can't tell you how much fun it is."
Last year, the event drew 141 participants, an increase of about 40 percent, as well as approximately 350 volunteers, but Case believes there is still room to grow.
"We're just continuing to get the word out because we want to make sure everyone knows about it," he said. "We hope to have about 150 this year."
Word of mouth has certainly been working in the event's favor, especially when it comes to the volunteers who work the event. They have such a good time they can't help but tell their friends and are usually the first to sign up the following year.
"Some of those are the set-up crew beforehand and there's the clean-up crew afterward," Case said. "Then we run a karaoke room and some other events, so people man those. There are the people who help with the serving of the food and preparing of the food. Of course there are the ones who spend all night kind of as their date. We do some other special things for them, polish their shoes, do their makeup and all that kind of stuff. Everybody volunteers wherever they feel most comfortable."
A significant portion of the volunteers are George Fox University students, a tradition that started with the help of Katlyn Kronschnabl, who was an intern at NCC during the first event four years ago.
That year, she recruited her friends to help out, but after being hired as NCC's director of children/special needs, Kronschnabl has coordinated student volunteers through GFU's Office of Spiritual Life.
Kronshnabl attends a few campus events, like Serve Day, to help publicize Night to Shine, but by now awareness on campus is strong enough that the volunteer base among students is pretty much self-sustaining. Last year about 150 students helped out and so far about 100 have signed up for the event next month.
In addition to overseeing decorations, Kronschnabl coordinates pairing participants with a date or "buddy" for the evening, which is a popular choice among GFU volunteers.
"We get a lot of emails every year," Kronschnabl said. "One girl has been a buddy with someone for the last three years and now goes and visits them every single week and just attended their birthday party and stuff like that. We do get a lot of positive feedback."
The event includes the traditional dinner and dance, but Night to Shine's calling card is the red carpet entrance, where "paparazzi" are lined up to take photos and a cheering crowd welcomes each participant.
One of Kronschnabl's most vivid memories came last year, when an elderly woman was brought to tears as she walked the red carpet. It was the first prom experience of her life.
"Just having people who don't normally get a prom experience to be able to walk down the red carpet and feel special and feel like they belong and are loved," Kronschnabl said. "It's about them and not anyone else."
Those interested in participating are encouraged to sign up early at www.newbergcc.org/nts because there is a fair amount of paperwork to complete. Potential volunteers can also find a link to a sign-up on that page or can call Debbie Groat at 503-538-3104.
"It is a lot of fun," Kronschnabl said. "It's also a lot of fun incorporating the community and not just NCC people, making it a community-wide event."