CLINTON – The glam of the red carpet and paparazzi brightened The Benson Center thanks to the Kings and Queens Ball held by FBC Clinton, March 6. The Kings and Queens Ball is a prom for special needs young people.
FBC Clinton worked with a national organization previously to offer “Night to Shine,” but this year, because of scheduling, they decided to offer the special event on their own.
“This is our third year,” said Bethany Festervand, the children’s minister at FBC Clinton. “We usually hold the event at church, but we’ve outgrown the church. Many come from Clinton, but several are attracted from surrounding towns. We’ve grown from 65 guests to more than 130.”
Festervand is not surprised by the positive, growing response. “Ninety percent of families with special needs children don’t go to church,” she said. “They just don’t feel comfortable.”
On this night, the entire family is lavished with pampering and kindness. “It is important to hold this event,” Festervand said. “We want to remind families that they are valued, wanted and not alone. We want them to know that we want to walk alongside them.”
Festervand also said that the church must send a message of worth. “God views them as Kings and Queens, while society finds them less valuable,” she said. “God views them as treasures. We need to let them know that God sees them that way by the way they are treated.”
The evening is truly one for kings and queens. The guests arrive in limos to red carpet treatment complete with paparazzi and cheering crowds. The guests look their best because they are treated to hair stylists and makeup sessions.
Festervand outlined the preparation for the evening. “We use about 300 volunteers,” she said. “We have teams for each of the stations. We use volunteer photographers, crowds at the red carpet and each guest has a buddy escort to ensure everyone has individual love and attention.”
Volunteers also are used for hair, makeup, karaoke, food and goodie bag preparation. A safety team watches over the crowd making sure all are safe for the evening.
“We even had a dance floor team in case one of the buddy escorts got tired,” Festervand said. “The party doesn’t stop on the dance floor.”
Festervand holds a volunteer training class before the event. “We want our volunteers to know how to treat those with special needs,” she said. “Sometimes it can be intimidating to know how to handle the situation. We don’t want them to be hesitant to interact with the guests. So, we give them tips.”
Festervand involved the community in the event as well. “David Lee of KDKD FM Radio announced our guests on the red carpet as they came in,” she said. “We also had “KC Wolf,” the Chiefs mascot, and “Sluggerrr,” the Royals mascot. We took photos of our guests with the mascots and added the photos to the goody bags. We wanted them to remember the evening.”
The parents for the special needs guests also got the VIP treatment. “We had a respite room for the parents,” Festervand said. “They could drop their children off or relax in the room. Many also opted to wander around and see everything that was going on. It is an evening of joy and families can connect with each other.”