Special-needs kids are stars

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
CLEWISTON — County Commissoner Emma Byrd adjusts Joshua Goulet’s tie at First United Methodist Church of Clewiston’s first-ever Night to Shine.

CLEWISTON — Born with Down Syndrome, Joshua Goulet, a 21-year-old student at LaBelle High School, is mostly nonverbal. He communicates mostly by signing. He also has autism.

“He loves the beach and loves to body surf, ride his bike, jump on his trampoline, and of course his very favorite is giving hugs,” said his mom, Patti Goulet, “and anything where there is dancing and music!”

Last year, he attended one of Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine, a prom for people ages 14 and up with special needs, in Naples, and absolutely loved it. But this year that event was filled by the time they tried to register. Then, they found out that organizers at the First United Methodist Church of Clewiston were holding the first Night to Shine in Hendry County.

“Last night we went to a place where everyone was loved for who they are, not what they could do or what they even looked like. Enter Night to Shine! As a parent with a child with special needs you always hope others will be able to love and accept your child as the God-given gift to this world that they are. At the Night to Shine last night hosted by the First United Methodist Church of Clewiston, my son was treated more than like a celebrity, he was treated like royalty. From the gorgeous decorations to the help with tying his tie, to the greeters, buddies, the planners of the event and many others serving in various capacities, my son had the time of his life. My heart was so touched by the many volunteers who were there to simply give a person who usually receives very little recognition, a night to shine! Thank you so much to everyone,” Patti Goulet posted on Facebook the morning after Clewiston’s Inaugural Night to Shine.

“He loves people, everyone and anyone, no discrimination whatsoever! I worry about him giving hugs instead of shaking hands, but most people seem to love it and seem to need it. The people at Night to Shine definitely made him feel like a king!” she exclaimed. “Honestly, everyone there was so amazing and loving and kind it was a huge blessing for my son and for me!” They can’t wait to attend next year’s event, and hope it will be even bigger.

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