Over 7,000 special needs teens around the world attended the Night to Shine prom event on Feb, 13, made possible by the Tim Tebow Foundation.
Tebow's charity sponsored 44 proms in 26 states, as well as locations in Uganda and Kenya. The night was full of glitz and glamor, with participants receiving the royal treatment, complete with limousine rides, a red carpet, shoe shines, a dance floor, and much more.
For some, the highlight of the night was the participation of Tebow himself, who first flew to a prom held in Kernersville, North Carolina, and then to another in Simpsonville, South Carolina. The former NFL player reportedly escorted teens down the red carpet, posed for pictures-and even shined shoes.
"We had a great time," Tebow said. "I'm so humbled and grateful to be a part of it."
The theme of the event was simple: everyone is a king or queen in the eyes of God. To drive this point home, each participant was honored with a crown or tiara at the end of the night.
"My goal is to make you feel like kings and queens," Tebow told attendees. "But to be honest with you, every moment of your life, God looks at you like a king or a queen...you are special."
"When this project began, we hoped that on this night, the churches would shine, the volunteers would shine, Christ would shine and our guests would feel like kings and queens," added Erik Dellenback, executive director of the Tim Tebow Foundation. "We believe that's exactly what happened!"
To make the night possible, local churches, assisted by over 15,000 volunteers, did much of the organizing and decorating along with the Tebow foundation.
"What has absolutely blown us away and really speaks to the body of Christ is the number of organizations, businesses, churches, and groups who flooded our office wanting to help, wanting to volunteer, wanting to donate prom dresses, wanting to get involved--it's truly become a community event," Jeff Davidson, President and CEO of Rising Above Ministries, told the Gospel Herald.
For the parents of those in attendance, the Night to Shine event was particularly emotional--and meant having fun despite limitations.
Ronnie Adams, whose daughter, Asia, is confined to a wheelchair, said, "I'm excited. I never thought I'd be bringing her to prom, especially a special needs prom, but I'm glad to be here."
Added Jacquelyn Adams, Asia's mother, "I mean just look around you can see their faces light up. You can see. You know despite their struggles, despite the wheelchair, despite the canes, despite the feeding tubes, the walkers, they are OK right now. And that's alright. That's alright you know."
Davidson, whose 17 year son was also among those in attendance, told the Gospel Herald, "The vision that the Tim Tebow folks have for inclusion and bringing an activity that typical individuals get to enjoy and adapting it so that individuals with special needs can have that same experience--that's part of what we're all about."
Due to its massive success, the Tim Tebow Foundation is hoping to make the Night to Shine an annual event. Currently, the charity is accepting donations for next year's prom, which can be made at www.timtebowfoundation.org.
"Words cannot adequately express the joy that I experienced during Night to Shine," said Tebow in a press release, "...It is very humbling and overwhelming, but when you simply spend time together, you can begin to turn statistics into stories!"