For one night, hundreds of Metro New York residents with special needs were kings and queens. They strutted their stuff on red carpets at their proms at local churches and banquet halls during the annual Night to Shine celebration.
The VIPs were just some of the more than 100,000 global guests of Night to Shine, a ministry of the Tim Tebow Foundation. More than 600 churches, including some in New Jersey and New York, from 35 different denominations and 24 countries, participated in the fifth annual event earlier this month.
“God gave his very best for each of us — he gave us his Son — and because he was willing to do that, we are willing to do whatever it takes to make these honored guests feel special and feel loved,” Tebow said in a statement. “They are worth it, and that’s why I love Night to Shine.”
Attendees went to the events in limoousines. Once inside, guests were given the royal treatment. There were beauty bars with hair and makeup stations, shoe shiners, and dancing. Corsages were tied around ladies’ wrists and gentlemen got boutonnieres pinned to their suits and tuxedoes.
It all led up to a night of dancing, games, and the moment where every attenee was crowned king or queen of the prom.
Partipicipating New Jersey Churches included: Bethany Church (Wyckoff), The Chapel (Lincoln Park), Stonecrest Community Church (Warren), St. George Syro Malabar Catholic Church (Paterson), St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Bologna (Haskell), St. Anne (Woodland Park), Liquid Church (three locations), Cornerstone Church (Wyckoff), Church of the Assumption (Hackettstown), and Bayside Chapel (Barnegat). NYC Churches included: Calvary Chapel (Staten Island), Resurrection Life NYC (Manhattan), Grace Community Church (Warwick). and Immaculate Conception (Manhattan).
Cornerstone Christian Church in Wyckoff hosted the event for the first time this year.
“Night to Shine was an unforgettable prom experience held as a celebration of God’s love for people with special needs,” said Salliann Ran, Cornerstone’s director of family ministeries. “It was our hope to provide a magical prom night to those who had likely never been to a prom before.”
Krissy Leckie, coordinator of Cornerstone’s special needs ministry, called the event “life-changing” for both the guests and over 200 volunteers.
Five hundred guests attended the special event at Liquid Church’s three campuses in Parsippany, Mountainside, and Bridgewater. More than 1,000 volunteers worked to put on the special event at the three locations.
“It’s truly our privilege and passion to serve families with special needs, and hosting Night to Shine is an incredible way that we’re able to participate in this worldwide movement that’s changing the narrative on how people with special needs are viewed,” said Tim Lucas, lead pastor and founder of Liquid Church. “The need here in New Jersey is tremendous. In fact, New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the nation.”
On Staten Island, Pastor Dave Watson and Calvary Chapel hosted Night to Shine 2019 with several churches and ministries, including Crossroads Church, Oasis Church, Salem Church, Staten Island Chinese Christian Church, and True Vine Christian Fellowship.
It was not just a special night for the young attendees, but for their caregivers and families, said Pastor Dave Watson of Calvary Chapel.
“Night to Shine was an incredible night,” said Watson. “We wanted to communicate to individuals with speical needs and to their caregivers and families that they are unique and that they were made for a uniqe purpose by God and that we love them and, more importantly, God loves them.”
Steve Blondo, president of the Tim Tebow Foundation, said he wants the value and significance people with special needs bring to society to continue beyond the Night to Shine.
“Our prayer is that this celebration continues daily in each of these communities across the globe,” Blondo said. “It may just flat out change the world.”
By Daniel Hubbard, editor
NIGHT TO SHINE PHOTO GALLERY