People with disabilities given “A Night to Shine” at their own prom



By Ron Giofu


Over 100 people with intellectual disabilities were given an opportunity to “shine” in the spotlight of their very own prom last Friday night.

The Gathering Church, located in south Windsor, held “A Night to Shine” prom for those with disabilities with the event taking place at Western Secondary School. Patty Leno, public relations co-ordinator for The Gathering Church and wife of Pastor Garth Leno, said it is an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with over 500 churches around the world holding similar “A Night to Shine” events.

It was the second time The Gathering held one, the first also being at Western Secondary School last year.

Leno stated the point of the event is to show the people with disabilities that “God loves them” as well as their parents, buddies and the community in general. She indicated that some didn’t get a chance to go to a prom while in school.

he Gathering Church held its second “A Night to Shine” prom event for those with intellectual disabilities last Friday night. It was held at Western Secondary School. Adam Hoehne and Jazzy Ankamah walk down the red carpet during the event.

“It’s an amazing night,” said Leno. “They are the stars, they are the kings and queens all night. It’s about recognizing people with special needs and giving them the opportunity to shine.”

The buddies were volunteers who ensured the attendees had a good time. Leno said people supported by Community Living agencies in the region were invited as well as those from Christian Horizons and other agencies who support people with intellectual disabilities. Staff at Western Secondary also helped with planning and invitations with Leno pointing out that some came from as far as Chatham to attend.

Two buddies even came from Toronto, Leno added.

Chantelle Bubnic performs karaoke during “A Night to Shine.”

“They came last year and they wanted to be part of it again,” she said.

“A Night to Shine” was originally scheduled to be in February but was postponed, and later cancelled, due to a snowstorm. The Gathering was able to regroup and bring it back this year but Leno said they will have to take a look at whether they can hold it again next year, noting they lost a lot of perishable items and man-hours when the event was originally cancelled.

“We have to re-assess after this year,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a very worthwhile event. We’d like to be part of it as much as we can.”

Tiffany Todd and Matthew Leung were two of the over 100 guests that attended the “A Night to Shine” prom.

The Gathering was the only church in Canada to host “A Night to Shine” last year and was only one of two in Canada this year, with the other being in Vancouver.

Nicole and Rachel Mantha came to the event and Nicole said Rachel was geared up to go to her prom.

“She’s been waiting all day for this,” said Nicole. “She’s been so excited. We’ve waited a long time for this day.”

Duncan Phelps danced with his date Hailey Nickelson as part of the evening’s enjoyment.

A “crowning ceremony” was held at the conclusion of “A Night to Shine” where all the participants were crowned king and queen of the prom.

“It’s awesome,” said Phelps. “I love how they changed the high school into a magical wonderland.”

Local dignitaries were also on hand to help cheer the prom-goers on with Essex-Windsor EMS and St. Clair College represented, as well as the Town of Amherstburg. Representing the latter were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, police chief Tim Berthiaume, Sgt. Matt Capel-Cure and Const. Kim Rathbone.

For more photos from the March 23 event, please check out our Facebook album.

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