LAFAYETTE – Robbie Alford of Boulder donned a donated tuxedo with tails and top hat for a night of dining, dancing and frivolity with 700 guests of Flatirons Community Church for its recent, second annual SHINE event.
Billed as The Big Party, SHINE welcomes the developmentally disabled to a gala complete with valet parking, red carpet, a catered meal and professional portraits on their big night out.
“This is a really good, great event,” said Alford, who was paired with Flatirons escort Brittanie Slonksnes.
“He’s a really great dancer, with lots of energy ” said Slonksnes, one of 1,400 volunteers who accompanied each SHINE guest. “I’m learning to like dancing tonight.”
A parquet dance floor was among numerous, special touches Flatirons members either funded or donated to make the event extraordinary. Other extravagances included 1,000 Mylar balloons, a marque, formal gowns, suits and tuxedos, tote bags with goodies inside, and portraits for each guest, said spokesman Dan Foote.
Three weeks prior, each of Flatirons’ 700 guests handpicked their evening wear from 3,500 gowns and nearly 1,000 suits that were donated by church members, said Karen Berge, the event coordinator for SHINE.
Berge is credited with the first SHINE production in 2010, after Senior Pastor Jim Burgen and Associate Teaching Pastor Scott Nickell had a conversation about hosting a “Jesus Prom” like one at a Kentucky church where each served before coming to the Boulder area. The idea is to celebrate those with physical or mental disabilities.
At Flatirons, a team of seamstresses provided on-the-spot alterations and tailoring, allowing each guest to take home his or her suit or dress, said Foote, who likened the scene to a military invasion “with lots of moving parts.”
“The fittings become an integral part of the whole,” said Foote, who is also Mens’ Community Pastor at Flatirons.
There’s a video circulating the church in which a young woman looking in a mirror exclaims “I look beautiful” as seamstresses tend to her dress.
Pastor Burgen beamed as he surveyed SHINE’s guests, all 16-years or older and some in wheelchairs, filling Flatirons’ spacious, new facilities.
“Of all the things we do, this is the one I’m most proud of,” said Burgen, noting that Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding.
“We land closer to the expression ‘What would Jesus do?’ with this event than anything else,” Burgen said.
Foote, who has a niece with a slight cognitive delay, agrees. “There’s a special place in God’s heart for the least of these.
“The truth of the matter is these folks who come have been marginalized because of disabilities,” Foote said. “They do get pushed to the side.”
Not at Flatirons where, for the SHINE event, guests were served at decorated tables by wait staff serving a catered meal courtesy of Chick-fil-A.
Outside the dining auditoriums, game booths and professional photographers awaited SHINE guests who received framed, five-by-seven inch portraits. Gift bags containing a water bottle, chap stick and pen were given to each guest as well.
Opposite the dining area, the church’s sanctuary was turned into a dance hall, complete with lights and music, and real-time visual displays on large screens, synchronized by a hired disc jockey.
Executive Pastor Paul Brunner enjoyed the party atmosphere, saying God loves a party. “God has a passionate desire to care for those who, from a societal standpoint, are less fortunate,” he said.
Foote agrees, saying that his favorite passage from the Bible proves Jesus’ love for the marginalized.
In the biblical story, the writer tells of Jesus’ journey from Judea to Galilee in which he takes a 60-mile detour through Samaria, where he has a conversation with a woman who, because of her race and lifestyle, was despised by religious Jews.
Instead of rejecting the Samaritan woman, Foote says, Jesus engages her in conversation, and asks for a drink of water. He then reveals himself to her.
“She is the first woman to hear that Jesus is the messiah,” Foote said.