Hanford Parks and Rec sign

HANFORD — Parks and Recreation is currently looking for volunteers and ideas to make Sept. 13 a night to remember for Hanford’s special needs community.

Hanford Parks and Recreation is planning A Night to Remember,  a formal dinner and dance for those who may have missed out on the experience of prom — or who may just want to experience it again.

“You have an idea, but you don’t know in which direction it could take off,” Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez said. “So, we’re putting it out there to see who would want to be involved in helping to make sure this thing could be an annual event.”

Parks and Rec’s Challenger Program, which provides opportunities to socialize and participate in activities for the area’s special needs community, has been a success and now Chavez wants to expand the program to include the annual formal dance.

The idea for a formal is inspired by a similar nationwide program spearheaded by professional athlete and author Tim Tebow. The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsors A Night to Shine, in which more than 600 churches come together to provide a special night for tens of thousands of special needs individuals.

While A Night to Shine events are held in Visalia, Fresno and Bakersfield, Chavez wants to bring a similar community-based event to Hanford — and she’s looking for local volunteers and sponsors to help make it happen.

The event could use volunteers to serve as “buddies” to guests of the event, a planning committee or sponsors to provide dresses, flowers or even a red carpet for that perfect special night feeling. 

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“I’d like to be able to look back in 10 years and say, ‘we started in 2019 and it only got bigger and better,’” she said. “But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Kings Rehabilitation Center is collaborating with Parks and Recreation to provide donations and decorations while Newman Garcia Studios will provide free photographs for guests.

Tickets for the event are free and the event is open to all ages, available in August at the Hanford Parks and Recreation office located at 321 N. Douty Street, or at Kings Rehab.

“It’s free and I want it to stay free. I don’t want anyone to not be able to come because they don’t have money.”

For more information on how to volunteer or sponsor A Night to Remember, call Chavez at 559-362-3212.  

The Challenger Program hosted a Halloween party last October as well as a Blue Ribbon Challenge in May, which served as a kick-off to the Special Olympics wherein those with special needs competed in activities like dance contests and games of checkers.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, the Longfield Center hosts the Adventure Club, a dedicated spot for those with special needs to gather and socialize.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com.

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