College of the Ozarks hosts Night to Shine for special needs guests at The Keeter Center

NEWS: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2015

Media Contact: Valorie Coleman
Public Relations Director
College of the Ozarks
Point Lookout, MO 65726
Office: (417) 690-2212
Cell: (417) 365-2727
Email: vcoleman@cofo.edu

College of the Ozarks hosts Night to Shine for special needs guests at The Keeter Center

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks made last Friday evening a “Night to Shine” for more than 150 special needs individuals who were VIP guests for a Valentine’s dance in The Keeter Center.  The event was patterned off of the Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine events, which others were encouraged to sponsor.

Teamwork Makes the Night Possible
The College teamed with area organizations, including Camp Barnabas and New Hope Development, to make the night happen. Raeanne Zurn, the director of New Hope Development, works with special needs individuals in the Branson community to help them learn job and life skills to integrate them into society. “Our goal is to get them involved in the community — get them to church, get them employment — so they can feel good about themselves,” Zurn said. Last fall, the New Hope group held a dance, and the venue was packed with 80 people. So when Zurn was approached with the option of holding their special Valentine’s dance at The Keeter Center, she immediately saw the potential for a magical evening.  “It was amazing,” Zurn said. “God came in, and moved, and made this thing into what it was meant to become. We expected 157 people, and I’m sure we went way over that. The students and The Keeter Center staff were amazing . . . an amazing bunch of kids. They danced the night away, and they were so comfortable.”
Dr. Sue Head, dean of character education, helped bring the groups to campus. “The joy on the faces of our VIP guests was absolutely precious, and our students who organized and served had a great time, too,” she said. “To see our students in white dinner jackets and white gloves, serving appetizers . . . I think it was a night to remember for our students and our guests.” Dr. Justin Carswell, dean of Christian ministries at C of O, helped organize the students’ efforts. “One of our goals as a college is to exemplify the character of Christ by serving and loving others,” Carswell said. “This event provided a fun environment for that to happen, and we were thrilled to partner with New Hope Development and Camp Barnabas. My favorite part of the night was the look of excitement and expectation on all of the faces of our guests.”
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Cinderella for a Night
The excitement was palpable. In fact, Zurn said that parents, staff members, and even volunteers from the community helped round out the prom-type experience for the attendees by pampering the female guests beforehand with all the appropriate beauty preparations — hair, nails, make-up and fancy dresses. “We had 33 girls who came to the hair, make-up and nail party,” Zurn said. “When three people showed up in jeans, I called a member of the community who had let us know she had a supply of formal occasion dresses she was willing to donate. She showed up with armloads of dresses . . . beautiful dresses. We got the girls dressed and made them feel beautiful!” And perfectly in line with tradition, the ladies were fashionably late to the ball. “They were a little late for the dance,” Zurn said. “But that’s typical! I can’t tell you how many people came up to me at the dance and said, ‘This is amazing. It was just more than we could have even imagined.’”
Rachel Bruce, College of the Ozarks sophomore, also said she got more than she bargained for. “Some students felt more at ease on the dance floor, but I was definitely out of my comfort zone,” Bruce said. “But I could not stop smiling because everyone else was smiling. Even those in wheelchairs could take a spin on the dance floor. “I came to this event praying that I would be able to encourage these people with disabilities and show them God’s amazing love, but I left knowing that they encouraged me more than I could ever have encouraged them. The range of disabilities was wide, including people with autism or others with Down Syndrome, but they all shared one thing — joy!”

Bruce feels she got a glimpse of another world, another perspective, through her participation in the special night. “I truly believe that people with disabilities hold a special place in God’s heart. The rest of the world only sees the outside, but God does a beautiful work in their hearts. At the end, one guest, a young lady, said she hoped she could do this again next year. I feel like I have made lifelong friends because of this one night. They openly welcomed me into their happy world.”

For more information, contact the public relations office at (417) 690-2212.

About College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks is a Christian, liberal arts college located on a 1,000-acre campus in Point Lookout, Mo. Christian values, hard work and financial responsibility comprise the fundamental building blocks of the “Hard Work U” experience. The college earns numerous accolades yearly, including being named the #1 Best Value College in the Midwest for 2015 by “U.S. News & World Report.” To achieve its vision, College of the Ozarks pursues academic, vocational, Christian, patriotic and cultural goals. These goals are mirrored in the School of the Ozarks, begun in fall 2013 for high school students, and the S. Truett Cathy Lower School, opened in fall 2014 to K-sixth grade students. For information, call the public relations office at (417) 690-2212 or visit www.cofo.edu. Follow College of the Ozarks at www.facebook.com/collegeoftheozarks or on Twitter @CofOHardWorkU
About New Hope Development
New Hope Development is an organization in Branson, Missouri, that seeks to help individuals with special needs learn skills which help them integrate into society and maintain employment. The staff members help train these individuals in practical skills such as housekeeping for the motel industry, job interview skills, etiquette skills, etc. They also roast, grind and flavor coffee for their own company, Cedar Creek Coffee, providing gainful employment and job skills practice for many of their clients.

About Camp Barnabas
Camp Barnabas is a ministry providing Christian camping experiences to people with special needs and to their siblings. The program exists to offer life-changing experiences to campers and to the people who serve them. Utilizing the camp venue, the organization provides ministry and social experiences that increase spiritual knowledge and increase human dignity to all who participate in the program. The national office for Camp Barnabas is located in the Ozarks, and College of the Ozarks partners with them for service projects whenever possible.

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02.18.15 – Valorie Coleman

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