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Chris Southerland could not wait to get to the dance floor.

After taking his turn on the red carpet at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Southerland, 28, of Davenport, told his buddy for the night, Anna Trudell, the director of clinical services at Family Care Solutions in Davenport, that he wanted to hit the dance floor.

Southerland found a girl he knows and took off with Trudell trying to keep up.

Southerland was one of 700 kings and queens who attended the Quad-Cities third Night To Shine event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and put on by two local churches, Risen Christ Lutheran Church, Davenport, and Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in LeClaire.

This year, instead of holding separate events at venues that would likely be packed beyond capacity the two churches booked the TaxSlayer Center, and with kings and queens with special needs, and the more than 800 volunteers and escorts needed to pull it all off, the TaxSlayer was almost too small.

The dance floor stayed packed all night, all the hottest dance music keeping the joint jumping. Above the dance floor people could look up and see themselves on the huge TV screen.

Southerland was experiencing the event for the first time.

“I’m here to have fun,” Southerland said, who seemed to know just about everyone with whom he came into contact.

It was Trudell’s first time experiencing Night To Shine, too.

“This is amazing,” she said, adding that many people at the event are patients and clients of Family Care Solutions and they all look forward to this night.

“This is a huge event that they were looking forward to, and they’re already talking about next year,” Trudell said. Looking around the venue, she added, “It’s an eye-opening experience and a heart-warming experience.”

Night To Shine lets people with special needs know they are not forgotten, and they get the full treatment. There is makeup and hairstyling for the women, shoe shines for the men, and limo rides. For each king, there is a crown, and for each queen there is a tiara, and everyone walks the red carpet.

This is the third year the two churches have hosted a Night To Shine event, but it is the fifth year for the program. The churches did it their first year not knowing the other was doing it.

“This year, we decided to do one big prom and the TaxSlayer was available and here we are,” said Jennifer Hildebrand who is a parish nurse with Our Lady of the River.

She added that while the prom is for the special needs community, “it’s for the volunteers, too.”

“You cannot be involved in an event like that and not have your heart changed,” Hildebrand said.

Sandy Sievert, of Risen Christ Lutheran, said that the area does not seem to realize just how large the special needs community is.

“They need something like this so they know they are loved and that they are important,” Sievert said. “This is just for them.”

The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for Tim Tebow himself who came on the big screen to let all of the kings and queens know, “You are loved and God has a special plan for you.”

The Tim Tebow Foundation reported that this year, the fifth of the prom, there were 537 churches from 33 different denominations in 49 states and 16 countries with 150,000 volunteers who worked to celebrate with 90,000 kings and queens.

Charlie Collins, 26, of Moline, who is a techie who is never without his phone, has been to the event for the second time and was glad to see it combined. “I’m here to have fun. I just hang out with my friends and meet new people.”

For Kelly Wolf, of Davenport, it’s her third year being a buddy, and the second year being a buddy to Collins.

“I don’t know how I got involved,” Wolf said. “I just stumbled on it and I got thrown in to be a buddy and I love it. I love the support and the smiles and the laughter. It’s so much fun. As soon as we’re done here I’ll put it on my calendar for next year.”

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