People with special needs will go to prom virtually

Matthew Schramm has fun at Night to Shine alongside Emily Tinsman, Miss Eastern Iowa 2018, on Feb. 9 at Rhythm City Casino in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Night to Shine, a memorable prom experience for persons with special needs ages 14 and older, will roll out the red carpet virtually on Feb. 12, 2021, because of safety precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers encourage prom goers to register on the Quad City Night to Shine website (

Registration deadline for this free event is Jan. 15.

“For the fifth year in a row, Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire and Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Davenport will co-host the prom for the Quad Cities. We have been co-hosting the event for the last two years and it’s been fantastic working together,” said Jennifer Hilde­brand of the LeClaire parish. “The combination of gifts and talents from individuals from each church has proven to be a blessing for all.”


Organizers assumed the event would be in-person this coming year. “Several weeks ago, we were informed that the event would be virtual and we’ve had to adjust accordingly,” Hildebrand said.

Each year’s Night to Shine worldwide celebrates prom on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, at professional athlete Tim Tebow’s request. The Feb. 12 event will be live­streamed at 5 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST), but a recording will be available immediately and for a few days for those individuals or groups celebrating after that time, Hildebrand said. All the details will be available on the Quad City Night to Shine website.

Registration will be capped at 500 guests. “For the first time we are limiting registration to Scott, Clinton, Muscatine and Cedar counties on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River and Rock Island, Henry, Mercer and Whiteside counties on the Illinois side of the river. We hate to turn away anyone, but this local event has grown so much in the past five years that we’ve had to instill some limitations to better accommodate our Quad-Cities guests. It’s a good problem to have!”

The 2021 Night to Shine will require an estimated 50 volunteers, far fewer than normal because of the virtual format. “On a ‘normal’ year, we would need one buddy to every guest plus other volunteers to help with food, respite room, hair/makeup/shoe shine, crowd control, coat check, flowers, gift bags, paparazzi, photos, first aid, check-in, etc. Last year we had nearly 750 volunteers,” Hildebrand said.

Some logistical challenges remain. “We need to get 500 gift bags into the hands of the registered guests and have to consider how we accomplish that,” she said. “We decided to have a couple of drive-through pick-up events for the gift bags and then deliver the others. We’re hoping that some of the agencies that serve individuals with special needs will be able to help us by picking up the gift bags for the individuals associated with their agency.”

“Some of the agencies are organizing their own small group event to watch the virtual prom together and celebrate one another,” Hildebrand said. “Some guests will get dressed up and even get their hair and nails done in anticipation for the heartwarming message they will receive during the address by Tim Tebow himself.”

Hildebrand hopes that many guests and their loved ones will take photos and send them to the “smug mug site” on the website “so we can send them on to the Tim Tebow Foun­dation.” More information about that will be included in the gift bag and on the website.

“Parents and/or caregivers can consider preparing a special meal for the evening and even decorating inside to enhance the prom experience. They could create a photo backdrop at home and photograph their prom guest, browse through the pictures from last year’s event that are available on our website and even set up Zoom calls with other guests who are celebrating from their home. We encourage creativity as this is new ground for us too.”

For additional questions, call Hildebrand at (563) 370-4412 or email her at Include “NTS Prom” in the subject line for emails.

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