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'Night to Shine': Local churches among host sites for prom for special populations

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Tim Tebow with a Night to Shine guest. The prom for teens and adults that Tebow started in 2014 has grown to more than 500 locations.

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The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Just in time for Valentine's Day, churches in eastern North Carolina will join hundreds of others around the world in an event designed to show love to people with special needs.

St. James United Methodist Church is among some 500 churches in 20 countries that will host Night to Shine 2019 on Feb. 8. Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, the event is designed to provide a prom night experience for teens and adults with special needs.

St. James in Greenville and Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount are among 30 churches in North Carolina that will host Night to Shine events, which are being held in all 50 states.

“It’s a time to celebrate them and God’s love for them,” said Lisa Jordan, a parent volunteer.

Night to Shine began in 2014 when Tebow, a former NFL quarterback and well-known sports announcer, author and speaker, developed a prom experience based on his appreciation for people with special needs. His foundation also provides funding for orphan care, adoption aid and playrooms in children’s hospitals. 

In 2015, 44 churches in 26 states and three countries hosted Night to Shine events that served 7,000 guests. Last year, the events grew to 537 churches representing 33 denominations in 49 states and 16 countries. Night to Shine brought together 150,000 volunteers to serve 90,000 guests, each of whom is crowned king or queen of the prom.

Night to Shine events, which received $3.5 million in grants from Tebow’s foundation last year, are funded in part by participating churches and community groups.

“I am blown away by how we are seeing God use the church to step into this space as an advocate for people with special needs,” Tebow said in a news release “It’s not about my foundation or the churches themselves, but about communities coming together to love and celebrate people with differences.”

A red-carpet welcome awaits every Night to Shine guest. Once inside, participants — ages 14 and older — are invited to visit hair and makeup stations and shoe shining areas. They receive corsages and boutonnieres and other prom favors and are treated to dinner, music and dancing.

“As a parent of a child with special needs, I can tell you this night is a big deal,” Jordan said. “This night means as much to us parents as it does to our friends that are differently abled.”

Organizers are expecting 200 to 250 guests and more than 500 volunteers for the Greenville event.

“We hope that volunteers will experience what a joy this population is to work with and that they witness the works of God being displayed in this population,” Jordan said. “I hope at the end of the night that everyone’s eyes are wet with tears at the signs of joy on their faces.”

Registration deadline for volunteers and guests is on Jan. 18. A volunteer training is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday. To register to volunteer or to attend, visit www.stjconnect.org/Night-to-Shine. For more information, contactJoyce Day at joyce@stjconnect.org or call 752-6154, Ext. 206.

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