Clergy Corner, Jan. 11, 2019

Clergy Corner, Jan. 11, 2019

For one glorious night, EMMERSON HJORT will get to be the belle of the ball — pampered and dressed to the hilt while dancing and singing at a special prom next month at Champaign's First Christian Church.

"It's gonna be a night I will treasure for the rest of my life," said the Monticello High School junior.

On Feb. 8, First Christian will be among 655 churches worldwide hosting some 100,000 honored guests like Emmerson, who has Down syndrome.

It's the fifth annual Night to Shine, put on for young people with special needs by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback TIM TEBOW's foundation.

Emmerson is one of 115 First Christian guests who will receive the royal treatment — access to a hair and makeup station, a shoe shining area, a catered dinner, karaoke, prom favors and, of course, the dance floor.

She has been counting down the days since going a year ago.

"Some nice people made my hair look beautiful," Emmerson said. "The food was great, and I had so much fun at the dance."

KELSEY WRIGHT, a First Christian volunteer and co-organizer of an event that takes 300-plus local volunteers to put on, said the church is going all out for its third edition of Night to Shine, viewing it as a one-of-a-kind opportunity "to stand up for those who are differently abled."

"We're going to have limousine rides, a DJ, professional photographers, professional videographers and karaoke," Wright said.

Plus, she said, "all the guests will receive corsages and boutonnieres that local florists are helping to make."

Night to Shine is also a special night for the moms, dads and caregivers.

The back of First Christian, known as the Oasis, will be opened up to feed them and thank them for the sacrifices and love they've provided the prom participants.

"It is fun for the parents," said Emmerson's mom, KATHLEEN WILLIAMS. "I usually go in periodically and snap some photos and maybe dance a dance or two.

"It is a great time for us to sit and relax and know that our kids are having a great time."

And that's not all. Each and every Night to Shine guest will be crowned king or queen of the prom.

"And after the event," Wright said, "we send the photos and videos and files straight to Tim Tebow."

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