BRANFORD — Will Wilson’s favorite part of Night to Shine was when hundreds of blue and white balloons cascaded onto the crowded dance floor.
“Everyone was playing with them and bouncing them around,” said Will’s mother, Christine Wilson.
“Dad got a balloon, too, and was bouncing it around on people,” added Will Wilson.
Sponsored by Shoreline Community Church, the prom night experience, to celebrate people with special needs, was held Friday, Feb. 7 at Bill Miller’s Castle.
Attending the evening were 95 special needs guests, each paired with a buddy, plus an additional 100 volunteers. Local businesses and individuals donated goods and services.
A separate reception was held for parents and caregivers.
Will Wilson, a 17-year-old junior at Daniel Hand High School in Madison has Down Syndrome. His twin brother, Henry, volunteered for the evening.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Christine Wilson said, reflecting on the evening that included her twins. “It’s wonderful, it’s fabulous.”
“Henry was willing to do it,” she added. “He’s with a special needs sibling 24/7. I said, ‘I think you’re really going to enjoy it.’”
As the night progressed Christine Wilson watched the volunteers, along with honored guests, revel in the festivities.
“They had fun,” she said. “You can just let your hair down and dance and be silly and have fun. It’s what everyone needs.”
Now in its sixth year, Night to Shine is also sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The Branford event was one of over 700 held around the world simultaneously on Friday, Feb. 7. Elsewhere in the state, there were celebrations in New Milford, New Canaan, East Hampton and Wallingford.
Tim Tebow, a former professional football quarterback, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007, is currently a minor league outfielder with the New York Mets organization.
“The Tim Tebow Foundation exists to bring Faith, Hope and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need,” according to timtebowfoundation.org.
Victoria Smith, event coordinator at Bill Miller’s Castle, worked closely with organizers to make this a night to remember.
“There were a lot of people here,” she said. "Everybody had a great time from what I could tell. A lot of smiling faces and a packed dance floor, so that’s usually a good sign.”
The night culminated in all guests being crowned king or queen, complete with a sparkling crown.
“I loved the crown on my head and letting people know that I was the king,” said Will Wilson.