Year 1: Evening of Dreams began with an idea from Joe Alves which became a dream of Michelle Raby to bring inclusion to teens and young adults with disabilities and acute illnesses. These individuals so often are excluded from activities that are “normal” for many other students their age. We knew this wasn’t right and it wasn’t something we would stand for so in 2009 the Evening of Dreams prom was born. It is a night to break down walls and barriers that have held our guests back for too long. We desire to bring awareness to special needs as well as inclusion for each and every guest that attends.
Year 2: Year two was all about making dreams come true! The theme was the Wizard of Oz and our guests were accompanied down the yellow brick road by each of their special dates to enter the prom. Lizzie Shaw’s date was especially great; it was actually Lizzie’s dream to attend the prom with a firefighter. We made her dream come true. He came in full uniform for the entire night and it was an incredible time for Lizzie. So whether it was a fireman, an iPad, or family vacation to Disneyland, we fulfilled every dream that our guests submitted to us that year. Including IN HIM Ministry and Rich Wilkins remodeling Lizzie’s room after her surgery to make it wheel chair accessible.
Year 3: The volunteers who work with Evening of Dreams each year are the absolute best! We have people from all over the area join us to put this wonderful event on, including many area high schools and athletic programs. For year three, our theme was High School Musical and we had the students of CCHS come dressed as characters from the movie and get all of our guests involved in the fun and dancing! We also had several area football teams come out with their entire football team participating as dates for our guests. Florin’s football team had such an amazing time and were so excited to be a part of something as special as Evening of Dreams. The day following the prom we connected with the team’s coach and found out that not only did the entire team come and get involved, but they even chose to forgo their own prom to attend ours! What an amazing sacrifice to show love to others!
Year 4: By our fourth year, Evening of Dreams had nearly quadrupled in size! Last year we had 186 special needs guests, with over 350 area students from 46 local high schools and out-of-state universities serving as their host dates. With American Idol as the theme for this year, our guests entered the prom on the red carpet with paparazzi and fans on all sides trying to get a glimpse of our special stars for the evening. Everyone was there, Simon, J-Lo, and even Steven Tyler impersonators! Our guests had a great time watching performances and then dancing the night away! Once the music started, all the guests hit the dance floor and never left. The one thing that was abundantly clear, was that when given a chance and included, kids will just be kids. They all ate together, talked together, danced together, sang together, and created a night of dreams together.
Year 5: This year was bigger and better than any of the previous years! With prom being only a month away, we fulfilled our goal of having 250 guests signed up to attend! Our theme was Shining Stars, because every single guest that has attended Evening of Dreams, was one of our very own special Shining Stars. We were so privileged to be able to walk through life with them as they have changed our lives on a daily basis. Their hearts and openness to being loved is so unique. They were such a blessing to everyone they met. Thank you for your involvement in the past and for your continued support into the future! Evening of Dreams is a vision that will have lasting impact for years and years to come. THANK YOU!
Year 6: Wonderful. Radiant. Glamour. Sparkle. Brave. These are some of the words that covered the walls of the Performing Arts Building on May 16. The 6th Annual Evening of Dreams was full of smiling guests, crying parents, and most importantly, FUN! The most emotional part of the night was seeing each of the 250 guests with special needs walk down the red carpet with their dates. Local radio hosts Pat and Tom mc’d the red carpet while bleachers full of family and friends cheered them on. As they entered the prom, some waved like royalty, some busted out their best dance moves, but they all smiled from ear to ear. At any given moment, it would not be hard to find a parent or a volunteer crying at how beautiful and amazing that moment was.
After everyone had their grand entrance, the real party started! The “Neon Lights” themed event was full of black lights, glow-in-the-dark face paint, and more glow sticks than you would know what to do with! Everywhere you turned you saw kids covered in glow sticks and face paint and having the time of their lives. Kids danced non-stop as soon as the DJ played the first song. During the dancing, there were microphones so they could sing along with their favorite songs. To keep everyone energized, Chik-Fil-A and Little Caesar’s donated loads of chicken nuggets and pizza for everyone to snack on.
The night even included a special visit from “Bruno Mars”, a member of the Evening of Dreams dance team that coincidentally looks like the pop star. The dance team performed a couple numbers, including a Stomp-style routine featuring Pastor Ryan Bunbury.
So many of the young volunteers have expressed why they love and continue to come back to Evening of Dreams. Here’s a few things they said:
“After 5 years of being a part of the Evening of Dreams, last night was the best!”
“Evening of Dreams was one of the best nights I’ve ever had.”
“Tonight changed my life #EveningOfDreams.”
Year 7: At the 7th annual Evening of Dreams prom, each of the 250 guests with special needs got to live their dream of being a superhero! The walls of the Performing Arts Center were covered in pixelated murals of the classics: Batman, Wonder Woman, The Hulk, and others. There were skyscrapers (to scale of course) to make you think you were in Gotham. Ironman, Spiderman, Hawkeye, and some of their friends walked around and took pictures and danced with the guests.
All of this excitement was overpowered by something else- empathy. Close to 450 volunteers came as dates, served food, took pictures, and served in many other areas to make sure our guests had the time of their lives. They forgot about their own wants, needs, and schedules and thought about the needs of others first.
This year, a new partnership with UC Davis helped make this night special. Students from Dr. Bob Emmons’ classes and members of the Aggie football team and coaching staff came and served as dates and security for the evening. As always, a highlight of the night was the red carpet entrances of all the guests and dates. Chris K from 107.9 The END hosted the red carpet this year and made each person feel so special as they walked from their limo or classic car into the dance. It wasn’t hard to find crying parents and families as they watched their sons and daughters enjoy their time in the spotlight. The energy in the PA was high as our guest’s sang and danced along to their favorite songs. Some of the crowd favorites were Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana, and of course, the Cupid Shuffle! The Evening of Dreams dance team, with help from some CSUS cheerleaders, performed 3 amazing numbers to keep everyone entertained. Another highlight was watching the prom king and queen get crowned! Antoine and Maddie were crowned by Papa Roach’s lead singer Jacoby Shaddix in front of a room full of smiles and tears of joy.
“This year I realized Evening of Dreams is more than an event- it’s a community, a family”, said Founder and Director Michelle Raby. “Both guests and volunteers keep coming back! Some of them request to be paired together year after year and its apparent that all the guests feel included and loved. We can’t thank our volunteers enough for helping make our guests’ dreams of going to prom be a reality. I believe every guest and volunteer left feeling like a superhero!”
Year 8: The 8th year of Evening of Dreams was easily one of the best! We took our guests “Under the Sea” for a night full of fun and dancing. Watching the volunteers love on the guests to give them a night they’ve only dreamed of is what this event is all about.
Evening of Dreams is more than just the dance that night. Our season kick-off is the dress fitting for our female guests with special needs. A month ago, our chapel was filled with hundreds of dresses ready for our guests to say “Yes!” to. This year, even Princess Belle came to help them choose their dress for this year. Our male guests aren’t left out of the fun! The tux fitting a few days later helped get our male guests get “suited up” for the night of their lives!
After a video of last year’s prom went viral, we started to get some national recognition. R&B artist Usher sent a welcome video welcoming our guests and thanking our volunteers! “This is Us” star, Jermel Nakia, took interest in Evening of Dreams. He was our special guest to do the crowning, but he wanted to do more! He came to town for the tux fitting so he could spend one-on-one time with our special needs guests and get to know them. We are so grateful for his interest in what we do, but more importantly, his heart for this community and our kids!
Another special part of this year’s Evening of Dreams was the SPLASH we made. Can you go “Under the Sea” without mermaids? No way! Live mermaids from The Sacramento Mermaids came to join us for the night. There was even a tank outside of the Performing Arts Building where Lucky and her mermaid friends took turns swimming around for our guests to see!
It has been said that this was the greatest Evening of Dreams to date. Between the delicious food (Thanks, Chik-Fil-A, Little Caesar’s, Big Spoon, and Epicuren!), the amazing décor (including the massive octopus made of balloons that hung from the ceiling), and the entertainment from our EOD Dance Team, the night was one that would never be forgotten.
But on top of all of the lights and glitz and glamour, our hundreds of volunteers are what make Evening of Dreams what it is. There is something so raw and refreshing about seeing a high school star athlete on his knees dancing with a young lady in a wheelchair or one of the most popular girls in school wearing her date’s cowboy hat while they danced the night away. When a college football star comes home to take his previous date and now friend to her prom, it is easy to remember that there are still good people in the world. We are so thankful for our incredible volunteers that come out by the hundreds to be a light and show love.