February 9, 2018, was just another Friday night for a lot of us, but for more than 90,000 people with special needs, it was a night to shine.
Tim Tebow says he got the idea from a local church that hosted a similar event for children with special needs. He wanted to do it on a larger scale. He succeeded.
This year, Night to Shine was held in 16 countries, in more than 500 host churches, with 175,000 volunteers who worked to make it a very special night for some very special guests.
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Tebow’s hope is that, for perhaps the first time, the prom-goers would realize how much they are loved and leave knowing the God of the universe has a role for them. Judging by the reaction on the Facebook page for the Tim Tebow Foundation, the sponsoring agency, he has succeeded.
Tim Tebow himself shows up at many of the events, including Guatemala and Peru this year, to tell everyone who came that they are a king or queen of the prom. Tebow admits it’s an exhausting night but one whose benefits outweigh any fatigue.
“It’s my favorite night of the year and we get to change so many lives,” Tebow said in a video promoting the event. “Honestly, it’s not just the night of their life where they get to dance, and they get to have fun. They get to ride in limos, they get to walk down red carpets.”
Each Night to Shine welcomes guests with shoe shining stations for the men and hair and makeup stations for the women. At many of the locations, each prom goer and their date or caretaker arrived to cheering crowds and faux paparazzi as they walked down a red carpet.
After a lot of picture taking, the dance begins. Volunteers help out with everything, including getting the shyer ones on to the dance floor. Tebow says he wants to give prom goers “the night of their lives” but the volunteers will tell you they also leave the event feeling blessed. Here’s how Los Angeles Times Assistant sports editor Houston Mitchell described a Night to Shine that he covered in Southern California:
“One boy was dancing in his chair at one of the tables, so I went over and asked him if he wanted to go on to the dance floor with me,” volunteer Hannah Mitchell said (full disclosure: Hannah is the youngest daughter of Times assistant sports editor Houston Mitchell). “A smile lit up his face and melted my heart. It is truly one of the greatest events I have attended. Just to see everyone smiling, laughing and feeling so free is an experience I will never forget.”
For the kings and queens it was a night to shine; for the volunteers, it was night to reflect God’s love; for the rest of us, it was a night to watch God reach down and touch us all.