Organizers looking for volunteers for 'Night to Shine'

Jan. 25—Roll out the red carpet, as Pulaski is prepping for a Night to Shine.

Last year, the area saw its first Night to Shine prom to honor those in the community who have special needs. Now, organizers are ramping up for this year's event, which will be held Friday, Feb. 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Center for Rural Development.

Hunter Nelson made his pitch for the community's help during Monday's Somerset City Council meeting, while Matt Fackler did the same the next day at Pulaski County Fiscal Court.

The men said they wanted to get the word out about needing volunteers for the event — possibly as many as 400 to 500.

The Night to Shine is a prom-like atmosphere in which those with special needs ages 14 and up get treated like the stars they are, both men said.

The night begins with each "honored guest" being linked to a "buddy" who will guide them around for the evening.

Nelson said that last year, honored guests would show up in the parking lot and be offered one of a number of rides — a limo or a Corvette — that would drive them to the front of the building.

"Once they reach the front of the Center, they walk up in their gowns and their tuxes, and they're all looking spiffy, and they get a double-door entrance and a red carpet and paparazzi there" Nelson said.

From there, the guests can get their pictures taken, go to areas to get them further dressed up — a hair and makeup room for the women, a shoe shine station for the men — or participate in a karaoke session.

The guests will get dinner courtesy of Chick-fil-A, then a DJ "opens the dance floor and we dance the night away," Nelson said.

Meanwhile, the family and caregivers of the honored guest also get a treat, said Fackler.

"Even though the night is for (the guests), we also want to honor the caretakers and family members that accompany them," he said. "So for them we have a respite room, where there's a different menu that we have to eat, and some massage therapists have offered their time and services to come and offer massages during that time."

Night to Shine is an international event, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

"At the end of the night, a message by Tim Tebow will be shown on the big screen — he won't be there, unfortunately." Fackler said jokingly.

Locally, the event is put on by the Oak Hill Baptist Church, and the church's webpage ( has a "Night to Shine" portal where those who want to be guests can register to attend, and those who might want to volunteer can sign up to help.

The event also has a Facebook page, called Night to Shine Somerset, with information.

Nelson and Fackler attended their respective meetings to ask the public for help, either by volunteering or donating.

To donate money, people can go to the portal on the Oak Hill Baptist Church website or write a check to Oak Hill Baptist with "Night to Shine" in the memo line.

And while every donation helps, Nelson said the organizers need volunteers more than that.

They especially need people willing to be "buddies" for the guests, as they are expecting 250 to 300 guests to turn up.

"We need a lot of volunteers for this, because it's a one-to-one ratio for honored guests," Nelson said.

As Fackler said about last year's event, "We didn't know it at the time, but Pulaski County has the highest special needs population in the state."

The buddy for each guest would be a guide, who leads the guest to whichever area they are looking for.

The event also needs people to help with parking and to be the greeters for the red carpet entrance.

"It's life-changing to see the honored guests' faces and reactions to what we give them for three hours," Nelson said.

Those who want to volunteer are required to provide a $7 fee to cover the cost of running a background check on the — a situation that Nelson was apologetic for, but said was vital for the safety of the guests.

"We have to run background checks on every single volunteer. ... I'd rather be safe than have the whole thing ruined by having certain people come and ruin it for everybody," he said.