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A 'Night to Shine': Local church hosts prom for those with special needs

Jacob Meyer, 24, of Duluth makes a grand entrance on the red carpet at Proctor High School during a Night to Shine celebration Friday evening. A Night to Shine is a prom-type party for people with special needs. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)1 / 2
The fieldhouse at Proctor High School is decorated for the Night to Shine celebration Friday evening. A Night to Shine is a prom-type party for people with special needs. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)2 / 2

Augustana Lutheran Church in Proctor gave people with special needs a night to shine bright Friday.

For the second straight year, the church hosted a Night to Shine prom at Proctor High School. Night to Shine is a worldwide movement sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and takes about 250 volunteers to put on each year.

People ages 14 and older with special needs were able to get all dolled up with dresses, makeup and suits to attend a prom celebration.

After stopping by the registration desk, attendees were treated to getting their hair styled, makeup applied and shoes shined. Once they were dressed up and ready to go, a limousine picked them up from the school, took them on a short drive around town and then dropped them back off at the school where they entered through a light tunnel and were greeted by a cheering crowd of volunteers.

Before heading off to dance the night away, attendees were treated to a buffet dinner and ice cream sundae bar. They were also given crowns and tiaras and could have their pictures taken. If they got tired of dancing, they could head to the gym for some mini-golf, karaoke and a photo booth.

Some of the attendees went stag and others brought a friend. Jonah Plys, 18, of Duluth, brought his "beautiful" friend Ella. Jonah said he asked Ella to come with him to the prom at Little Angie's by giving her a flower. When asked if he was nervous to ask her, Jonah said, "Nope. I knew she'd say yes."

Hairstylist Jessica Mattevi gives Bella Stowman, 15, a hairstyle at Proctor HS during "Night to Shine." (Clint Austin / DNT)

Jonah went to the Night to Shine event last year and said he had an amazing time, so he decided to come back this year. Jonah said he was looking forward to eating good food and slow dancing.

To what song? Ed Sheeran's "Perfect."

Last year 103 people attended the event, but this year that number rose to 150 people. Event coordinator Mollie Haag said this event gives attendees a safe place to have fun.

"It's about inclusion, but at the same time we are giving them a prom that allows them to be themselves," she said. "It allows them the freedom to express themselves and be the way that God made them."

Haag said her favorite part of the event happened earlier this year, when the church gave away more than 35 dresses to attendees.

"Watching those young ladies try on the dresses and see their faces light up when they finally find the perfect dress is amazing," she said.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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