Special needs prom a night to shine and remember
PLEASANTON, Calif. (KTVU) - It was a Friday night to remember in the Bay Area's Tri-Valley, where hundreds of people attended a prom for those with special needs.
The event, called 'Night to Shine Tri-Valley' was held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. It was free and open to people with disabilities ages 14 and up.
Limousines pulled up to the fairgrounds carrying guests to the event, complete with VIP treatment, cheering crowds and walks down the red carpet.
Each guest was paired up with a buddy and volunteers to help them navigate the night.
For many of them, prom was something that was out of reach, until this special night. Everyone savored their time here in their own way.
22-year-old Arafel Corley of Pittsburg said this was her first prom. She said she wanted to dance.
Others showed off their karaoke skills on their night to shine like a rock star.
"This is everything I've been dreaming about. I've been dreaming about prom and I'm finally here," said T'ajanei Williams, a 19-year-old from Fremont.
She said prom is part of the high-school experience she longed for.
"I always wanted to wear this pretty dress, do my hair, put on my shoes. This is my first time doing it," Williams said.
Organizers said prom is a rite of passage to adulthood often not afforded to people with special needs.
Those who attended the prom are mostly from the Bay Area, but some come from as far away as Sacramento and Orange County.
"I'm an occupational therapist," said Jenna Litvinchuk. Her work with special needs children inspired her to start this event four years ago.
She partnered with local churches and the Tim Tebow Foundation to make a 'Night to Shine Tri-Valley' possible.
"A lot of our guests with special needs...they don't get asked to prom. Sometimes parents don't think it's the safest place for them to go because they don't have special accommodations," said Litvinchuk.
But this event was fully staffed by volunteers and funded by donations.
"It means a lot. I get to meet other people. I get to hang out. I get to meet people. I get to have fun and be a teenager, so yeah," said Williams.
Organizers said this event is to celebrate people with special needs and to create memories for them to cherish.