Night to Shine event in KC gives people with special needs a prom night they won’t forget

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the second consecutive year, Gail Schmitt is helping her 31-year-old son Eric get ready for the prom.

"I always get the feels. It's awesome. Eric looks so handsome when he dresses up," Schmitt said. "As a parent, there’s nothing I want more than for my son to have a good time, to party just like every other person gets to do."

Eric has autism but that hasn't stopped him from living his life to the fullest and dialing up for a fantastic night.

"That is going to be a very special evening. Just really looking forward to the opportunity of going with my girlfriend, Katie," he said.

Eric and Katie, dressed and ready to go to the Night to Shine event.

Eric and Katie are attending the 2018 Night to Shine event. It's an event put on by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

More than 500 churches from 16 different countries around the world host prom for people with special needs.

“We have the whole range. This isn’t people with special needs who are, for example, a high-functioning Down’s syndrome person," said Charles Beeghley, co-director of Night to Shine KC. "We have that, as well as people that are autistic with more severe conditions.”

Friday’s event featured a red carpet entrance, professional hair and makeup sessions for guests, a photo booth, food and plenty of dancing.

“When you live in group homes and those that live at home, they don`t get the chance to go out like we do and do things like this," Beeghley said. "We take this for granted, so this prom is really about them. They're the focus.”

This was Eric Schmitt's second time attending the prom at Arrowhead Stadium.

"From a parent’s viewpoint, it’s a wonderful evening. Generally you wind up in tears by the end," Gail said. "There are thousands of special needs persons within the community, within KC, that we just don’t get to see everyday. I think this really draws attention to how awesome of a group this is."

This year's event was even bigger and was something both Eric and his mother were excited to be part of.

"There’s been a lot of people there. It’s just been so exciting to see," Eric said.

"A night like this when he dresses up and he looks so wonderful and he feels so good about himself is just the best feeling for a mom," Gail said.

At the end of the night, all of the special guests were named prom kings and queens.

“It's really awesome to see them shine," Beeghley said. "It's really awesome to see them smile and to see them light up like, 'This is my night. This is all for me. These people are here for me.'"

To learn more about the Night to Shine event or to volunteer in the future, visit the event's website.