Emerging from a limousine to be greeted by a U.S. Marine escort, guests then walked a red carpet, cheered by observers, on their way to being crowned kings and queens of the prom.

The experience was all part of Night to Shine, a prom for 150 guests with special needs held Feb. 9 at Heritage Christian Church, 7413 Maxtown Road, in Westerville.

At the same time as Heritage's event, more than 540 other churches around the globe hosted 90,000 honored guests through the support of 175,000 volunteers in 16 countries for similar experiences.

Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation -- whose mission is to bring faith, love and hope to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need -- Night to Shine is meant to provide an evening to remember.

The Rev. John Buckles, a pastor with Heritage Christian Church, said the goal is for special guests and their families to feel love and value as they're provided with an opportunity to dance.

The guests, people ages 14 and older with special needs, are treated to hair styling and makeup sessions, flowers, a limousine ride, the red-carpet treatment, dinner, dancing, karaoke, games, a crown or tiara, a favor bag and a framed photograph.

Volunteer Rita Stepp, a member at Heritage Christian, said it was her job to make sure everyone had fun on the dance floor.

"I love anything that's an outreach for the community to be feel cared about," she said. "I have to make sure there are no wallflowers, like any other dance."

Volunteer coordinator Mollie Hood of Westerville said she loves how the event brings the community together.

Mascot Brutus Buckeye and some Ohio State University cheerleaders were on hand to celebrate the evening, as was Princess Elsa from the Disney movie "Frozen," Hood said.

"Everyone wants to lift their neighbors up," she said. "Everyone here is excited to be here and take part. We had to turn volunteers away."

The volunteers had assignments, from being a special guest's buddy to doing hair and makeup, or being a greeter.

Sam Hood, a Genoa Middle School eighth-grader from Westerville, spent time greeting guests as they entered the church.

"I ask them if they're excited," he said. "They say they're so excited. They say, 'A Hummer limo, baby!' "

Hood was earning credit for community service hours for the National Honor Society.

Westerville South High School freshman Sierra Blake got her hair curled and sprayed with sparkles by Cheryle Hoerath before she headed down the red carpet.

Blake said she participates in bowling and horseback riding in the Special Olympics.

Annette McMurry of Galena provided makeup services for a second year.

"I love it," she said. "They love to get their hair and makeup done."

Special guest Amelia Hurst of Hilliard said she really appreciated the U.S. Marine escort.

"It's nice for them to do what they're doing," she said.

Alex Norris, 31, of Delaware was experiencing his first Night to Shine.

"I love it, "he said. "I like the princesses and karaoke. I sang 'What a Wonderful World.' "

Kyra Warren of Delaware described the event as "unbelievable."

"I've love it so much," she said. "I want to come back again. I hope they keep doing this for times to come."

Erin Moore, 27, of Gahanna said she enjoyed being with her friends and dancing at Night to Shine.

She said she participates in golf in the Special Olympics and her dad coaches the games.

Greg Ziebarth of Powell said he liked the food and music.

"He was dancing a lot," said Jane Schmidt, who served as his buddy.

Schmidt of Harrisburg said her cousin attends Heritage.

"My sister (with special needs) passed years ago, so this is near and dear to my heart," she said. "She taught us a lot. He (Greg) is teaching me to dance tonight. He has good moves."

Heritage was among 25 Ohio churches that hosted an event.

Other participating central Ohio churches were Grace Fellowship in Pickerington and Grove City United Methodist.

Night to Shine has grown from five churches to an international effort that celebrates more than 90,000 kings and queens of the prom.

Heritage had to limit its event to 300 volunteers because so many wanted to help, Mollie Hood said.

Tebow, who was born in the Philippines where his parents served as missionaries, is a former professional football quarterback.

His foundation was established in 2010; this was the fourth annual Night to Shine.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla