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Smiles aplenty at Night to Shine: Event draws 500 volunteers, guests

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As she walks the red carpet at Night to Shine, Jan Grosnick takes in the cameras and applause. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)2 / 4
Night to Shine guests are met with camera flashes and applause as they walk a red carpet. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)3 / 4
Ben M (left) and Jeremy Whitman (right) spent time together on the dance floor at Night to Shine. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)4 / 4

Tyler Hanson wasn't going to volunteer for Night to Shine. He was too nervous.

But then someone who had volunteered before stepped in and told him he couldn't pass up the chance.

"A co-worker of mine and a fellow member of the church I attend told me that it was one of the most powerful things he has ever done and I had to experience it for myself to understand," said Hanson, 26, who lives in Alexandria and works at Alexandria Industries.

So, on Friday, Feb. 9, Hanson dressed up for Night to Shine, a prom for individuals with disabilities, created and supported by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The event was held at New Life Christian Church in Alexandria.

According to Jane McCrery of New Life, there were about 170 guests, which is 50 more than last year. Each guest had a buddy, or a person partnered with them for the night. Taking other volunteers and caregivers into account, there were about 500 people in attendance, McCrery says.

At the event, Hanson served as a buddy.

Night to Shine guests enter the event by walking down a red carpet, where they are met with camera flashes and applause. They then make their way to the dance floor.

"The highlight of my night was eating dinner with the guests and getting to know them on a more personal level," Hanson said. "It was also watching them walk the red carpet and seeing the smile on their faces and their family's faces."

Hanson says the event made him realize how rewarding volunteering can be.

"It is so rewarding when you give your time and energy to someone who can't necessarily do the same for you in return," he said. "The act of being selfless in a self-centered world is a very humbling and eye-opening decision that I feel defines the meaning of unconditional love and shows us how God views and loves us."

After his experience, Hanson says he hope others will take the time to volunteer in their communities.

"I would recommend that everyone experience something like this at least once a year," he said. "It is so humbling and really showed me all the things I took for granted growing up and still today. It's opened my eyes to a whole new way of living and who I want to strive to be."

Special Needs Expo

The Windmill Project will host a Special Needs Expo from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13 at New Life Christian Church in Alexandria. The expo will provide information on products and services available to those with special needs in and around Douglas County. Admission is free. For more information, contact windmillprojectmn@gmail.com or call 320-766-2975.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

(320) 763-1233
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