Amie Bartell and Anne Trout were mere hours from walking down the red carpet, so naturally they were seated inside their salon.
Friday night dozens of special needs men and women followed a specially laid red carpet into Canvas Church for the second-annual Night to Shine prom, a nationwide event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The proms are held in more than 350 locations worldwide, and yesterday Bartell and Trout were waiting their turn at Soucie Soucie Salon to get the works — hair, makeup and nails — before putting on their dresses and enjoying Night to Shine.
“It’s just amazing,” Bartell said of the event. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
“You come in, you have a name tag that you wear and they give us all these gifts,” Trout added.
“They have karaoke,” Bartell chimed back in. “They’re just the best. I wouldn’t ask for anything more.”
Bartell and Trout introduced themselves as best friends. They lived together at Lighthouse Christian Home before Bartell moved to Great Falls six months ago, and her trip back to Kalispell was a surprise to Trout with the help of Lighthouse staff.
“She brought me this,” Trout said, holding up her phone to show a picture of a stuffed bear. “It’s a build-a-bear. You build it and put your voice in it. So she put her voice in it.”
Lighthouse brought about eight of its residents — plus Bartell — on a bus to the salon for a few hours of pampering. Soucie Soucie donated its services, but for as excited and grateful as the Lighthouse residents were, the salon’s employees were even more enthusiastic.
“It is probably our favorite day when the girls come in,” salon owner Marie AuClaire said. “We look forward to it because they’re so happy. You do a lot of events that are great, but it’s something about them. They’re so happy; they’re so excited. Just the littlest things they’re so thankful.”
“They are so uninhibited on happiness,” Libertie Barkley, a stylist at the salon, said. “A lot of people get excited but they’re very reserved about it sometimes.
“These guys — we all want to stop and go with them and just go dance.”
Soucie Soucie donates services to several groups in the Flathead Valley throughout the year. Barkley and Taylor Crosswhite, another stylist, said they had styled at Samaritan House, the Sunburst Community Center and a women’s shelter, among others.
“We also do prom salon,” Crosswhite said. “That’s where girls who are maybe less fortunate, or at a hard place in life, they get chosen by their teachers, so we go and volunteer our time to do their hair and nails and makeup.”
“I feel it’s super important to be involved in the community,” AuClaire said. “It’s just kind of part of what we are and what we do.”
Rebecca Webb, who coordinated the trip to the salon for Lighthouse, tried unsuccessfully to pay AuClaire and her employees for services she guessed would normally cost about $100 per person.
The residents, too, shared stories about AuClaire’s generosity. Bartell regularly got her hair styled at the salon before she moved, and Trout still visits for the occasional manicure. Neither has ever been allowed to pay.
“We’re all special needs but she doesn’t see us as that,” Bartell said. “She thinks of us as a friend and so do all of her crew.”
When it was her turn to rise from one of the salon’s couches and get started with her makeup for the big night, Bartell paused and turned back.
“Just one thing,” she said. “Marie has a big heart.”
Entertainment editor Andy Viano can be reached at (406) 758-4439 or email@example.com.