Cutting loose at ‘Night to Shine’ prom

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Clinton DeSoto of Beloit and Val Timler of Clinton were greeted with cheers and applause at the Night to Shine prom event at Central Christian Church on Friday evening. The event attracted more than 100 guests.

Night to Shine prom guests were greeted with cheers and applause as they arrived at Central Christian Church’s gym Friday Night. Many of the guests took the dance floor by storm, dancing to “Mambo No. 5” and “Car Wash.”

“She’s been excited for a month. She dreams about it,” mom Carrie Jensen said about her daughter 17-year-old Autumn Jensen.

Autumn had been to her high school prom, but not to one for people with special needs. The Night to Shine prom featured free limo rides, corsages and more. Autumn found a black and white dress from a thrift store and left school early on Friday to get her hair and nails done for the big event. Her mother said she would likely be dancing all night long.

Central Christian Church was selected as one of 50 host sites for the nationwide Night to Shine prom for people with special needs, receiving a grant of around $8,000 from the Tim Tebow Foundation. The event was held in 50 different cities across the country on Friday.

The 150 guests were each paired with a volunteer to help them enjoy all the attractions such as a photo booth, hors d’oeuvres, cake, limo rides, games, corsages and more. Young men got their shoes shined and the young ladies were treated to a hair and makeup area.

Racheal Burkhardt, 24, was getting curls in her long locks thanks to volunteer stylist Malerie Busche, a student of Tricoci University in Rockford. Tricoci teacher and trainer Jan Hudgin said there were seven volunteers from Tricoci who were doing hair, and loving every minute of it.

“For some, it’s their first prom. They get really emotional. They feel like princesses,” Hudgin said.

Volunteer MaGuire Pryor, a Craig High School student, was escorting fellow Craig student and friend Hannah Grace Wolfe. With enthusiastic dancer Hannah Grace by his side, MaGuire said he doubted he will have as much fun at his own prom.

Nate Wilbur of Brodhead was celebrating his 30th birthday at Friday’s prom. Looking for a lady to dance with, Nate was sporting a white tuxedo, red carnation and white shoes he had shined. He was hanging out with volunteer and wingman Josh Barker of Clinton.

Brian DeSoto of Beloit, in his 50s, said it was his first prom. He said he got his tux from the Janesville Mall. He began the evening by playing some of the many games available before being heavily applauded by fans as he entered the gym with Val Timler of Clinton.

“I like it,” he said.

Volunteer Dawn Krienke was one of the most animated dancers on the floor, dancing with Swavaceta Miller. Swavaceta, 40, had been to one high school prom but wanted to try one more. She found a gold glimmering gown at Janesville Goodwill and headed out with her mother Jody Miller.

Volunteer and Beloit Fire Chief Brad Liggett said the event was an amazing opportunity for the church and the prom guests, and he hopes it might become an annual event.

Information on the Tim Tebow Foundation stated it exists to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. That mission is being fulfilled every day through the foundation’s five areas of outreach including Team Tebow, Timmy’s Playrooms, Orphan Care, W15H and the Tebow CURE Hospital. For more information on the Tim Tebow Foundation people can visit

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