When Plant City first brought Night to Shine to town in 2018, the volunteers were shocked to see the red carpet filled with eager attendees as the community came out in full force to the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds.
Since then, the event event has only continued to grow and for the past two years has been held at First Baptist Church of Plant City. It’s a night of laughter, singing, good food and, of course, dancing. The prom was created by Tim Tebow in hopes that the special needs community throughout the country would have a night where they knew they were loved, appreciated and supported. Lauren McNair, chair of the event, said they ended up maxing out on registration for this year’s event. While not everyone who registered ended up being able to make it, approximately 130 guests, 250 volunteers and 110 parents came out to the big prom night.
“What we try to do is every year we try to add new things for our guests to look forward to so it remains somewhat of a new event,” McNair said. “This year, we added face painting, bubble machines and gifts for the parents, which we haven’t been able to give out in the past. We try to make it new and fresh every year and I think it works because people continue to be so excited about coming.”
In addition to the bubble machines and face painting stations, attendees could participate in karaoke, a photo booth, limo rides, balloon animals, enjoy a massive dinner spread and boogie down with their friends and buddy on the dance floor. One of the pinnacle moments of each night is when the DJ calls everyone to the dance floor and every attendee is crowned King and Queen of the prom.
McNair said she’s always so proud of the volunteers that help bring this event to life every year. She said Night to Shine highlights the very best of the church and the community. She added that the volunteers make sure every guest is as comfortable as possible and are having a fun evening. Calling the volunteers the “hands and feet of Jesus,” she said the volunteers go above and beyond every year and serve like she’s never seen them do before.
Of all of the special moments throughout the night, McNair said one of her favorites was watching the guests interact with the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen and Court, who always make it a point to attend the event.
“They did a phenomenal job, I was so proud of them,” McNair said. “One of my favorite moments was when several of our female guests, as they arrived and were about to walk down the red carpet, grabbed the Queen, Meghan, and wanted her to walk down the red carpet with them for the arrival. It was just a special moment for them to see Meghan and the court showing so much love to everyone as they arrived. It made them feel special and that’s what the entire night is about, making sure they know they are special to our church, our community and our Creator.”
Each year, registration for the upcoming event opens around mid-November. The event is always held the Friday before Valentine’s Day and will next be held on Feb. 12, 2021. You can find registration on the church’s website at fbcpc.com/nighttoshine.