It will be a full prom experience for teens and adults with special needs — and it’s completely free.
Night to Shine is an international event where people with special needs, aged 14 and older, get treated like queens and kings for a night, complete with a red carpet entrance, limousine rides, music, food, and a crowning ceremony.
It is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, a faith-based organization founded by the former NFL quarterback and current pro baseball player with the New York Mets.
Taking place globally on Feb. 8, Night to Shine will be held at two locations in B.C. — Chilliwack and Surrey. People throughout the province are welcome to attend Night to Shine, you do not need to reside in Chilliwack or Surrey.
“It’s an open invitation. Whoever wants to come is welcome to. We’re capping it around 75 guests,” says organizer Erin Hall of First Avenue Christian Assembly in Chilliwack.
Once inside, guests receive the royal treatment. There will be hair and makeup stations, shoe-shining areas, corsages and boutonnieres, a catered dinner, karaoke, prom favours for each honoured guest, and of course a dance floor.
Every honoured guest can bring up to two caregivers, parents or friends with them.
And the night wouldn’t be possible without a slew of volunteers.
“Every guest is paired with a volunteer that we call a buddy… somebody to celebrate them, who dotes on them all night. They’ll hold your food, they’ll hold your bag, they’ll take pictures of you. If people don’t have guests coming with them, it serves as their guest essentially so no one is by themselves,” says Hall.
Volunteer duties include being buddies for the honoured guests, photography, food prep, and helping out with activities such as karaoke and dancing.
“There’s a spot for everyone,” says Hall.
Night to Shine is a free event for all guests thanks to funding by the Tim Tebow Foundation, host churches, and sponsors.
“It’s kind of a blend of community, foundation and church which, to me, is so beautiful and the unity behind that is incredible,” she says.
“It is not about my foundation or the churches themselves, but about communities coming together to love and celebrate people with differences,” says Tim Tebow. “Every town, every village, every state, every country needs a Night to Shine for their special needs community — a chance to be part of something significant and life-changing… and to be blessed in the process.”
Doors will open at 6 p.m. When guests arrive at Night to Shine they’ll enter the church along a full red carpet.
“There’s a whole team of volunteers cheering them on holding ‘You are awesome’ signs. It’s so emotional and very overwhelming,” says Hall. “There’s also a sensory friendly entrance if that’s too much for someone.”
Once inside, guests register and are paired with their buddy. In the lobby, guests can get their hair and makeup done plus their shoes shined.
Guests then walk down the “encouragement hallway” to the gym where the main event will take place. Near the end of the evening, each honoured guest will be crowned as a king or a queen. Everyone gets a crown.
There will be a full sensory room for individuals who need to take a break from all the excitement. And also being offered that night is a respite room exclusively for caregivers and parents to chat with others who take care of people with special needs.
This year, Night to Shine is taking place in more than 650 host churches world wide. Last year, 90,000 people with special needs were celebrated and 175,000 volunteers took part.
Hall went to last year’s event in Surrey with others from her church. After coming away from it, they all agreed Chilliwack needed to host the event in 2019.
“I was so overwhelmed to see so many people and so many vendors and organizations pool together. It became so much more than just a church throwing an event,” she says. “(It’s) anyone who’s touched by the special needs community celebrating them and encouraging them. To have a night totally tailored to you, from safety to food to lighting — there’s so much that goes into it.”
“People can give, or if they’re the praying kind, they can pray. We really just want everyone to feel loved,” she adds.
Night to Shine takes place Friday, Feb. 8 from 6 to 9 p.m.
In Chilliwack, it’s at at First Avenue Christian Assembly (46510 First Ave., Chilliwack). To register as a guest, volunteer, or to make a donation, go to firstave.org/night-to-shine. Guests can register up to Jan. 30. Deadline for volunteer registration is Jan. 20 due to criminal record checks and paperwork that need to be completed. For more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-792-0794.
In Surrey, Night to Shine is at Horizon Church (15100 66A Ave., Surrey). To register as a guest, volunteer, or to help sponsor the event, go to nighttoshine.ca.