Night 5

Bobby Mechenbier, in the gray suit, and Mary Miller, both of Greenville, walk down the red carpet at the Night to Shine prom held Friday evening at Greenville Elementary School and hosted by Bethel Life Worship Center in Greenville.

GREENVILLE — Wearing a sharp tuxedo, black fedora and bright red bow tie, Evan Gault was ready to dance.

“I like to dance fast,” the Jamestown resident said. “The dancing is my favorite part.”

Friday evening was the Night to Shine, an annual prom event for those with special needs  sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

This year marked the fourth time that Bethel Life Worship Center in Greenville has hosted the event. The first year had about 98 participants, while this year’s Night to Shine attracted about 200 guests, plus family members and support, Pastor Kent Bell said.

“We get everyone from ages 14 to 91, and most are from this region, but we have people from as far away as Ashtabula and Clarion,” Bell said.

For Gault, this was the fourth year he and his buddy, Tim Murphy of Masury, have attended the Night to Shine. Happily reminiscing with Gault about the fun they had last year, Murphy said his favorite part of the night was the red carpet treatment the guests receive on the way into the prom.

“It really gives them the ability to feel special and get to spend a whole night having fun,” Murphy said.

Although they all came wearing the finest dresses and tuxedos, a room in the church was set up with volunteers who helped the guests prepare their hair, apply makeup, do their nails or give the men a shoeshine.

Stopping to give her hair a quick touchup before the prom, Melinda Graber smiled from ear to ear before the Jamestown resident joined her buddy, Pam Higbee of Conneaut Lake in the auditorium to await their ride to the prom. Like Gault and Murphy, Higbee and Graber have attended the Night to Shine every year it has been hosted in Greenville.

“I think I speak for all the kids when I say they look forward to it every year, especially the red carpet,” Higbee said. “The next time me and Melinda see each other, we’ll still probably be talking about it.”

After getting ready at the church, promgoers boarded buses and limousines for the ride to Greenville Elementary School.

The school’s gymnasium was appropriately prepared with balloons, lights, a disc jockey and refreshments, while a nearby hallway was decorated with a red carpet leading to the gym. Once in the gym, the promgoers would receive a crown or tiara and spend the evening as kings and queens.

To make sure the guests really felt like royalty, a throng of people lined the red carpet to cheer, to shake their hands or to offer high-fives.

“We really want to make sure everyone feels like a king and queen, because we’re all equal, and we’re all loved in God’s eyes,” Bell said.

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