College of the Ozarks hosted its annual Night to Shine event, in conjunction with the Tim Tebow Foundation, on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in the Silver Dollar City Parlor at The Keeter Center.
The prom-like event provided an evening to remember for 96 guests with special needs from Stone and Taney counties. More than 250 College of the Ozarks faculty, staff, and students volunteered — helping with hair and makeup, shining shoes, cheering for the guests as they entered on the red carpet, and serving as “buddies” or chaperones for the entire evening.
Night to Shine is a worldwide movement, celebrating God’s love for people with special needs.
One special night, two couples, and a third anniversary celebration
Justice Daniel, senior criminal justice major, and Johanna Daniel, senior child studies major, were paired with Dewayne Tennison and Kaylin Noyes. Tennison and Noyes met at Night to Shine in 2017 and have come back to the College to celebrate each year since.
“We asked them what their favorite activity was, and they said dancing. We asked them what their favorite part of Night to Shine was, and they said dancing,” Justice Daniels said. “They’ve been dancing together all night long, and now it is mine and Johanna’s favorite part too!”
“They have wanted to be together the whole time,” Johanna Daniels said. “It was so sweet to see the relationship they have with each other. We felt honored to be a part of their special day.”
“This is the most fulfilling event of the year at College of the Ozarks,” Johanna Daniels said. “It’s a night that is not about us, when we get to love people for who they are.”
A God-given talent
Carol Adams said this was the first year her daughter Tiffany attended the event.
“We’ve never been before,” Adams said. “We were not even sure she would come tonight. We had heard a lot about Night to Shine from her group called Chances. It’s a therapy group for young people with disabilities to meet and participate in activities. Chances told us about Night to Shine and invited Tiffany to participate. She was the last one to sign up and I’m so glad she came.”
Tiffany Adams is 33 years old and has Down syndrome. Her mother said one of Tiffany’s talents is her ability to play the keyboard and guitar.
“She took lessons for three years from a professional keyboardist and now she can sit down, hear a piece of music, and just play it. She has amazed us over the years, and we know this is her God-given talent.”
“As I walked through the door of the event, the first person I saw was Tiffany,” said Toni Whitted, C of O public relations assistant. “We’ve attended church together for years, and I didn’t even know she was planning to attend Night to Shine. As The Keeter Center filled with laughter and dancing, I could feel the love in the room. I was overjoyed to know Tiffany was able to participate in an event like this. I know it was a blessing for her mom to see her daughter experience a truly special night.”
Kings and queens of the prom
After the special guests were pampered with VIP treatment in the Alumni Center, they were taken by limousines to The Keeter Center. Crowds of cheering students welcomed them as they walked on a red carpet from the parking lot all the way to the ballroom.
Guests for this year’s invitation-only Night to Shine event were chosen with the help of several agencies in Taney and Stone counties that provide services to people with special needs.
Barnabas Prep is a program geared towards giving a college experience to adults with disabilities. Brock Shonkwiler, administrative coordinator for Barnabas Prep and former C of O student, shared his experience about Night to Shine.
“It’s amazing to come to an event where everyone is cheering them on and loving them,” Shonkwiler said. “Tonight, they’re not the last ones to be thought of, and everyone here is genuinely wanting to be with them and dance with them.”
Shonkwiler said this event allows the guests to feel confident in themselves.
“A lot more happens tonight than just dancing. Their overall confidence grows as well,” Shonkwiler said.
Participating agencies included the following:
- Barnabas Life
- Chances of Stone County
- New Hope Development/Cedar Creek Coffee