“Owen had never met her, but he watched others and he knew that escorting a beautiful girl in her best dress down the red carpet was something totally special that he wanted to do,” said Owen’s mother, Bette Jo Smith of Newtown.
The proud mom was responding to a question; “What has this event meant to you and your son?”
The special evening was a time when special needs young men and women, age 14 and older, were feted at a special gala evening with all the glitz and glamour and star treatment that the organizers could muster.
“Owen can’t talk to us and say that he wants to do what other kids do. But there are ways that he shows us. He loves to dress in his tuxedo.
“He loved the boutonniére that they gave him,” Bette Jo said.
“And when we reached the door to be welcomed by the Night to Shine staff, Owen suddenly put his arm out to escort a lovely girl next to him who was also attending all dressed in her finery.”
Volunteer “buddies” escorted each of the 150 guests from the limousines that delivered them to Allentown’s Palace Center and down the red carpet where they made grand entrances under a festive balloon arch. Enthusiastic fans greeted each star with applause and cheers.
More than 625 people were involved in making this year’s Night to Shine a success for the special needs men and women who were the guests of honor at the Feb. 7 event, according to a spokesperson for Riverbend Community Church which, along with the Love Ran Red Foundation, sponsored and organized the lavish event.
This year, Night to Shine celebrated its sixth anniversary. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation’s website, on this one night, 721 churches from around the world came together to host Night to Shine for approximately 115,000 guests with the support of 215,000 volunteers.
Luann Matika of Kutztown and former human resources chief for Northwestern School District was there helping with the flowers. It was a big job: boutonnieres, corsages, floral arrangements for the table center pieces.
Lauren Curley, owner of Styles Street of Cranford, N.J., was there as one of the support team. She and two of her colleagues was enthusiastic about the event. She wants to expand the concept.
“Participating in Night to Shine is wonderful,” said Curley. “I am able to give back and educate guest parents about a nonprofit I’m creating called Cuts with Care.
“Currently, Cuts with Care is only at my salon on the last Sunday of the month. I schedule appointments for anyone with special needs. Including but not limited to: autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia, social anxiety and more. It allows each guest a longer service time in a quieter setting with limited and compassionate staff.
“My goal is to have it not just in my salon but other salons by Night to Shine 2021!”