At the average prom, its only the most glamorous or popular students that get crowned as prom king or queen.
Night to Shine isn’t your average prom because every guest leaves the event with a crown and the title of prom king or queen.
Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, the prom, open to anyone living with disabilities 14 and older, is held simultaneously all around the globe, at locations on almost every continent. Plant City’s Night to Shine, held on Feb. 10, was hosted by First Baptist Church of Plant City (FBCPC). This was the church’s fourth year hosting the event, attended by more than 150 guests from all over central Florida.
“The event is a celebration of God’s love for everyone,” said event coordinator Lisa Hendricks, who taught special needs students at Hillsborough County Public Schools for 25 years. “Helping the special needs population and their families is my passion.”
More than 300 volunteers helped guests have the prom of a lifetime by providing a walk on the red carpet surrounded by paparazzi, a catered dinner by Hungry Howie’s, karaoke, shoe shining, face painting, balloon art and limo rides. Each guest was paired with a volunteer buddy for the evening who doubled as their partner so they could move and groove on the dance floor.
“Dancing is what they enjoy the most,” said Hendricks. “It’s neat to watch because they’re so uninhibited and just want to have fun.”
For Tony Ballard, it was his 38-year-old daughter Christin’s third time attending the event. He helped her register the first time but every year since she registered by herself. She loves to dance. “When dancing is involved she sometimes comes home limping with her shoes off,” he said. “I’m actually jealous because even though I went to my own prom this one blows mine away.”
Nikole Whitehead brought her two children. Andrew (35) has attended the event several years in a row but it’s the first prom for her adopted daughter Abigail (15). Both children have Down’s syndrome. “Abigail was excited that she was old enough to attend this year,” she said.
While her children enjoyed the prom, mom was upstairs in the parent/caregiver area talking to other parents about the realities of raising adult children with disabilities, from discussing guardianship issues to how to set up wills and trusts to making sure their children are taken care of when they pass away. “This is a great setting to discuss this with others who are going through the same challenges,” she said. “After they finish schools most of the work falls on the shoulders of parents to work through the maze of the available resources to put together a life for them.”
The event ended with the crowning ceremony and a video message from Tebow. Hendricks appreciates the hundreds of volunteers who help make the event a success every year. “We couldn’t do it without the tremendous support of members of the community who help fund this event,” she said. This year FBCPC raised more than $16,500 to offset costs.
For more information about Night to Shine visit www.nighttoshine.com.