April 29, 2016, in partnership with the Stephen and March Birch Foundation and Chick-Fil-A, Eastlake Church hosted its annual “A Night to Remember” prom for persons aged 15 through 22 with special needs. This free event is made possible by hundreds of volunteers who donate their time each year to provide a memorable night filled with limo rides, a red carpet walk, and a dance for the “honored guests” and their volunteer “hosts.”
This labor of love was launched in 2011 by Rob and Cheryl Shields who wanted to bring a fun, glamorous night to persons with disabilities who might not always have the same access to or experience at local school functions. Over 400 students with disabilities attended from over 70 San Diego area schools. Each “honored guest” is paired with a non disabled peer for a night of dancing. Parents and families are encouraged to participate as volunteers outside or as part of the red carpet “paparazzi” but the dance itself is “parent free” so that the over 800 participants have their very own night to remember.
It is not only a parent free dance but everything else is free too, made possible by approximately $40,000 in donations. Interested parties sign up starting January and are then notified of times when to get fitted for their free dress or tuxedo, if one is needed. Hair styling, make-up, jewelry, corsages or boutonnieres are also donated.
On the night of the event, honored guests sign in at either the boys or girls station at 6 pm and are then whisked off to a wait room where they are ultimately paired with their host. Together the honored guest and host ride a limo or party bus around to a different entrance where they are greeted by “paparazzi” as they walk a red carpet to the dance itself. For students sensitive to sound for which the cheering “paparazzi” along the red carpet might not work, a brief break is taken while a volunteer walks ahead with a sign “Quiet (noise sensitive)” to prepare the paparazzi to welcome the next guest.
The dance ends promptly at 9 pm at which time the hosts take the honored guests back to their respective boy or girl stations for pick up. They are also given a gift bag filled with wonderful surprises including a framed photo of the guest with his or her host. This year’s gift bag included two free tickets for each guest from the San Diego Padres. Volunteers have already started preparations for next year.
Interested in going next year? Sign ups begin January 15, 2017 and wait lists form quickly so early registration is encouraged. There is no question that for those attending, the memories and joy of the evening will be remembered for far longer than the night.
For more information, please visit the website for the “A Night to Remember Prom”.