“A Night to Shine” Comes to Clark County

On February 9, the Lawrenceville Church of God and over 190 local volunteers joined 540 churches from 16 countries in celebrating more than 90,000 guests with special needs through a very special “Night to Shine.”

“A Night to Shine” is described as “an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older.” It is a project of the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF), with support from global corporate co-sponsor, American Residential Services.

In 2017, New Carlisle’s Family and Youth Initiatives (FYI) helped four Tecumseh students with special needs attend a “Night to Shine” event at Troy Christian Church. Julie Driskill, a member of FYI’s leadership team, was so impressed with the event, she and her project co-director, Julie Gallagher, looked for a way FYI could bring the event to Clark County. Gallagher’s church enthusiastically embraced the idea, and Gallagher began coordinating the event at Lawrenceville Church of God.

“The church had to apply to have the event here, but something happened and the application would not go through! Finally, everything worked out and we were approved in October! Everyone became very excited--they really caught the vision that these guests are children of God, that they are people who are so much more than their disability. People in the church quickly began stepping up to help make the vision a reality. So many people just wanted to be a part of it!” exclaims Gallagher, “It is just so much better than I could have imagined, and I am so grateful for everyone who helped make the event happen!

A “Night to Shine” is, by design, meant to be a church-sponsored event. The Pastor of Lawrenceville Church of God, Alan Cain, says the event cost over $6,000 to put together, but the church did receive some help in the form of both a TTF grant and help from local sponsors. However, Pastor Cain says he is “in awe” of how the event turned out, and that the cost was secondary to how important it was for the church to “bring joy and fun to the guests and their families.”

“This is an area of ministry we want to develop, explains Pastor Cain, “To help and love on people with special needs and their families. This event will help us get us started in that ministry.

Over 65 special “guests” ages 14 and older walked down a red carpet to cheering as they entered the ballroom with a volunteer “buddy” who helped guide them throughout the evening.

Outside of the Ballroom, special areas met the potential needs of the guests so they were comfortable and could enjoy themselves as much as possible. A calming sensory room was close-by for over-stimulated guests. A salon was available where guests could get their hair done by Monica Layne and Diana Randall from Enon’s Hair Company salon and make-up done by Mary Kay Consultant, Cindy Moyer. Student from Tecumseh and Springfield also offered manicures and shoe shine services.

“My favorite part has been helping bring the inner beauty of the girls come out,” comments Moyer, “This event is a lot different than I expected, and I’m excited to see how the rest of the evening goes.” Randall was similarly impressed, adding, “Seeing the looks on everyone’s faces as they go down the red carpet, and seeing how the church put all of the rooms together...the whole thing is just phenomenal and I’m enjoying it so much!”

Every guest enjoyed a limo ride and sit-down dinner with their buddy. Karaoke, a caricature artist, and corn hole offered a change from the lively dance floor where a DJ played music.

DJ Tim Stines and his wife were excited to be a part of such a special event. “We are huge Tim Tebow fans!” explain the Stines, “We love everything he stands for...and ‘Night to Shine’ is a great way to show the guests they are unique and a lot of people care about them.”

Although people with special needs are sometimes left out of events like a prom when their unique needs cannot be met, other times they are unable to participate because their caregivers are simply just too exhausted to take the precautions needed for a special outing. For that reason, TTF makes “A Night to Shine” a special event for the guests’ full-time caregivers too, by pampering them with a “Respite Room,” a special dinner, and a massage therapist.

For the caregivers, the opportunity to do something special while having the peace of mind that the guest they came with was being taken care of was a happy surprise.

“This is just wonderful!” says one mother, “My son is 20 years-old, but he will always be a child. When someone calls and asks if I can come into work, they don’t always understand when I tell them it depends on if I can get someone to sit with (my son), because they just think about the fact he is 20 years-old. It’s really difficult.”

Siblings sometimes take over caregiving responsibilities when their parents pass away or are no longer able to offer care. A sister of an older guest says the night was a rare opportunity to relax, “I know my brother is being well-cared for by the (“Night to Shine”) volunteers, so I can enjoy myself...that doesn’t happen very often, so I appreciate all of this so much!”

The guests’ excitement was contagious. Guest, Riley Acuff, grinned as she strutted down the red carpet. She commented that she was most looking forward to, ”Dancing the Whip and Nae-Nae,” before taking off to get her picture taken with her buddy in tow.

At the height of the evening, every guest was crowned the “Queen” or “King” of the prom by their buddy after being told by Tim Tebow via video that they each had a purpose and were loved by God.”

In a video promoting the event, the former NFL quarterback says, “A Night to Shine” is my favorite night of the year...we get to change so many lives.”

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