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Night to Shine

ONU Greek students help give special needs children the time of their lives.

Community service is at the core of Greek life at Ohio Northern University. On Feb. 10, Greek students gave several local children with special needs the chance to be a king or a queen in their own right.

Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, is a special worldwide event that began in 2014 as a way to celebrate those with special needs by giving them a classic prom experience, something many of them never have the chance to experience otherwise. The Lima First Assembly of God Church was one of the original 44 sites to participate in the event, and ONU’s Greek students have been involved from the start.

Alpha Xi Delta junior Kristina Flak dances with Brent Closson of Ottawa, Ohio. The way the event works is that guests with special needs are paired up with “buddies” to escort them to their very own prom night. The buddies consist of students from local colleges and high schools. Needless to say, ONU’s Greek students are always looking for opportunities to serve others, and ONU professor and Delta Sigma Phi advisor Keith Durkin, who attends the host church, thought this to be the perfect opportunity for the students to help give others a chance to shine.

“I believe service is essential for both the Greek community as a whole and for its members individually,” says Durkin. “I’ve always been bothered by the horrible misconceptions people have about the Greeks. This involves everything from elitism to excessive partying. Nothing could be further from the truth. Night to Shine is a wonderful chance for Greeks to let the public see what they are really about.”

It was certainly a sight to behold, with music, dancing and lights everywhere and, of course, kids having the time of their lives.

Night to Shine has grown significantly since its inception, with 125 guests attending this year at the Lima site. More than 100 ONU students have been involved each year for the past three years. Without their help, it wouldn’t be possible to give so many extraordinary people such a special night to remember.

The Ohio Northern students who participate in this event are vital to making this night a huge success every year,” says Allen East Middle School teacher Cam Staley, director of the event. “Their energy and enthusiasm help create a fun atmosphere for all of our special needs guests. We could not do this event without them.

But as great as it was for special needs kids to have a night in the spotlight, it was just as rewarding for those serving.

“By the end of the evening, it didn’t even feel like I was doing community service,” says Kappa Alpha Theta senior nursing student Nicole Michalek. “The whole event was just one big celebration, and I was honored that I could be a part of it.”

Undeniably, Night to Shine went beyond being just a simple act of community service. It touched the lives of all who witnessed it.

“It is absolutely priceless to not only see, but to feel the genuine happiness radiating from every single person in the room,” says Alpha Xi Delta junior nursing student Kristina Flak. “The entire atmosphere is life-changing. You think you are volunteering to simply make sure your buddy has a great night at prom, but you end up making an instant connection with these kids and having a blast.”

With service being so central to the mission of ONU’s Greek community, students will continue to look for chance after chance to serve their communities in any way they can, making a difference in the lives of others and making themselves all the better for it.