Shining stars light up night
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
A group often overlooked had the starring role at a red carpet affair Saturday night at North Oak Community Church.
Ken Ediger, church pastor, said the Your Night to Shine program honored individuals with developmental disabilities. Adults from such agencies as Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, Bethesda Place and New Age Services joined others for a night of festivities.
Attendees were treated to introductions on the red carpet, a shoe-shine stand, music performances and a lasagna dinner.
"A lot of times, people in the community, they see them as marginalized," Ediger said. "We feel like that they are created in God's image just like we are, and that they're special people just because they are, not because of their handicap, not because of their disability. They're a live person, and they are creations of God."
The program, which marked its second year, began in 2012 after the idea emerged during Advent 2011. The holy season made the congregation want to shift the focus away from material goods to giving more of themselves, Ediger said.
The special-needs community was identified as a group deserving appreciation.
"They are certainly worthy of our love, they are worthy of a night like this to honor them, make them feel special," he said.
Debbie Breeden, chairwoman of the program's committee, said, "I've worked with special-needs all of my adult life, and it's just such a blessing to see my church family coming together and honoring individuals that oftentimes don't get honored in our lives."
Luke 14 says Christians should invite people to a banquet who cannot necessarily invite them back, Breeden said.
Dustin Rupke, Hays, said his 16-year-old daughter, Haley, sang Katy Perry's "Firework" during the program. He said his daughter, who has autism, is fearless on stage, and her motivation is simple -- Skittles.
"To watch these people that are just unique in their own way, God's creation, and to watch them celebrate ... it's so much fun," Rupke said.
Ryan Hoag said it was his second year attending the program. He returned because the whole evening was a "blast."
Vernon King, founder of Motivating Youth Co., said he was asked to provide hosting, entertainment and motivational services for the program.
He staged a skit encouraging the pursuit of dreams in which a spelling bee participant gained confidence as he spelled words correctly. King also filled a glass vase with golf balls, asked the audience if it was full and added water and sunflower seeds to show no one ever should underestimate themselves.
King said he travels nationwide, and the event is needed everywhere to remind members of the special-needs community they all have a purpose.
"My thoughts on the program are overwhelming. Overwhelming," King said. "I was in tears probably throughout half of the program while trying to provide the entertainment and motivational part because it was such a touchful program for those individuals."
Ediger said there were two other components in the celebration. Your Night to Dine was a dinner hosted in March for 60 to 70 parents and caretakers of developmentally disabled, and church members will visit group homes this week with gifts to thank those who serve the disabled community.