Who can forget prom night? Whether it was a dream or a disaster, it’s part of the fabric of many people’s lives. But for teens with special needs, prom hasn’t always been in the picture. Thanks to the spiritual and financial muscle of NFL star Tim Tebow, that’s changing for many young teens and adults.
For the second year, the Tim Tebow Foundation is sponsoring “Night to Shine,” when more than 200 churches around the country will participate simultaneously by hosting free proms for individuals 16 and older with special needs. The foundation will give each host church up to $8,500, a prom manual, a decorations kit and gifts for guests.
Marc Cargill, associate pastor at the Discovery Community Church, has two sons with autism: Tyson, 23, and Zachary, 15. Tyson, who hears with the aid of a cochlear implant, will be attending this year’s event. His dad says he’s excited: “He thinks it sounds like fun. He likes that kind of thing, even though he doesn’t hear the music like you and me. He likes dancing and the environment.”
“Night to Shine” promises to be unforgettable. One of the volunteers for the event, Mesa resident Greg Suender, says the Tebow Foundation is helping the church pull out all the stops with limo rides, a red-carpet welcome and a “friendly” paparazzi greeting to snap photos of the guests.
Suender says that’s just on the outside. Once inside, “They’ll have photo booths, hair and makeup stations for the girls, shoeshine chairs for the boys; and of course there will be food and a dance floor with special lighting and a D.J.”
And while the kids are dancing the night away, their parents will not be forgotten.
“We want to give the parents a chance to rest, relax and enjoy some tranquility,” says Suender. Parents will be invited to enjoy respite rooms, dinner, massages and a movie room.
The highlight of the night will be when each and every attendee is crowned “king” or “queen.” Cargill looks forward to the event he calls a tremendous privilege to show “love and appreciation to people with special needs and to provide them with an opportunity to feel love and feel special and included.”