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Fun to come first at Discovery Christian's 'Night to Remember'

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pastor Bryan Gratton of the Discovery Christian Church speaks to 100 volunteer buddies at the Pittsburgh Marriott North Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The church will be hosting 'A Night to Remember,' a prom for people with special needs on May 2. The meeting was held to orient the buddies to their duties during the prom.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014, 5:18 p.m.

John Woods Jr. can't wait for “A Night to Remember” this year.

Woods, 18, of Seven Fields picked out his tuxedo earlier this month and is ready to hit the dance floor again.

“He was on the dance floor the whole time last year,” said his mother, Lisa Woods of Seven Fields. “He got home and his feet were sore because he's not used to wearing dancing shoes.”

“A Night to Remember” is part prom and part Hollywood-style red carpet event where people with special needs ages 16 to 40 get to let go of their cares for a day.

In its second year, the event, organized by Discovery Christian Church in Cranberry, will host approximately 130 guests with developmental, physical or mental disabilities from 6 to 10 p.m. on May 2 at Pittsburgh Marriott North ballroom in Cranberry, said Bryan Gratton, lead pastor.

With a major sponsorship from Diehl Toyota and a number of other sponsors and donations, the event is free for those attending.

“After all the stuff many of them have been through, it's all about them and showing them how valued they are,” Gratton said. “It's an amazing night for them.”

Leading up to the event in early April, the guests chose from donated dresses and tuxedos in the church's “dress shop,” Gratton said.

On the big day, guys will have their hair styled and girls will get hair, makeup and nails done by the students at Paul Mitchell's Bella Beauty Academy before being whisked away by limousine to a 70-foot red carpet at the front of the Marriott.

After they walk the red carpet, guests will be paired with volunteer buddies who will stick with them through the night to make sure they have fun, Gratton said. Once inside, guests will get formal photos taken, eat a sit-down dinner, listen to an inspirational speaker and then dance the night away with friends.

“If they went to a dance at school or another place, it wasn't as carefree,” said Jodi Brennan, one of the organizers. “It's just a fun evening from start to finish.”

Brennan said this year people are coming from all over the region, including Monroeville, Butler, Sharon, Hermitage and Clarion.

The event was born from a story in the Bible where Jesus said to throw a party not for the rich and powerful, but for the people who don't get to go to many parties, Gratton said.

“A Night to Remember” had about 60 special-needs guests at the Twelve Oaks Mansion in Mars last spring.

It was so popular organizers had to find a new facility this year to accommodate more guests.

For Lisa Woods, it's a time to see her son, who has Down syndrome, experience something he had missed out on at school.

“Everything they do, it's just all about the kids and their special needs,” she said.

Gratton said organizers are looking for community members to help line the red carpet about 6 p.m. to cheer on the guests as they enter the building. For more information, call Gratton at 724-779-1010.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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