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West Forsyth High hosts prom for special needs teens
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A limo met each attendee at their car and drove them to a red carpet, where 200-300 people were there to cheer them on by name. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

WEST FORSYTH -- A first of its kind prom in Forsyth County for those with special needs was a big success.

On Friday, West Forsyth High School, Encounter Church and First Baptist Church of Cumming hosted the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine, a prom for those with special needs.

“I think it went very well,” said Kathy Evans, special education co-chair at West. “I think the students had a wonderful time and it was a great opportunity for us to get out and do something positive for the community.”

The event was open to those 14 and older throughout the county and was one of 375 “Night to Shine” proms hosted by the foundation that evening across the world. Attendees even heard a video message from Tebow before all donned crowns and tiaras as prom kings and queens.

“We’re about to play a video by Tim Tebow and he’s going to tell them how much he loves them, how God sees them and He loves them.

They’re his children and for each boy, that makes you a prince and for each girl that makes you a princess,” said Rev. Rick Julian, with Encounter Church.

Along with dancing, flowers, food and other prom favorites, there were chances for attendees to have hair, nails and make-up done and get their shoes shined.

The festivities started as soon as they arrived.

“When parents pull in the parking lot, a limousine meets them at their car and actually drives around and drops them off at the red carpet,” Julian said. “Then we had 200-300 people lining our red carpet to cheer them by name when they walk down.”

Rooms were also set aside to give attendees different activities or a break.

“We had an activities area for alternate activities where we had games, and they could build things and play Jenga and things like that,” West’s Evans said. “We had a sensory room for students, typically who have any type of sensory issues. A lot of times that impacts students with autism.”

Parents who attended were also treated to a respite room with catered food, dance lessons and free massages.

Each attendee had a student buddy for the evening, and students from programs at West and other Forsyth schools did makeup and fed volunteers.

“It was awesome; it was totally amazing the response that we had,” Evans said. “We predominantly do the buddies for things like Special Olympics and things like that for high school, and I never cease to be amazed at the number of kids who will come out and volunteer their time.”

Evans said she thought the event was a success and was something she would like to see continue in the county.

“I think it provides them opportunity to do what their peers do,” Evans said. “I think it gives them positive self-esteem and I think it shows the community that they do matter, they’ve very important and it gives them an opportunity to just hang out with typical peers and feel welcomed in our community. The more you’re seen, the less likely you are to be a victim.”