Night to Shine Honors Those with Special Needs
January 30, 2020
To celebrate kids with special needs, The Well church will be hosting a Night to Shine in partnership with the Tim Tebow Foundation at the high school on Feb. 7.
“The Night to Shine is a prom for kids with special needs that helps them have a safe prom in an environment that won’t cause them any anxiety or stress,” junior Hope Freeman said. “And it’s just a really fun way to help them.”
The event is open to many students and is not limited to the district.
“They come from all over the area,” English teacher Jeanna Sutton said. “And they have to register through the Well church to be able to participate so it’s not just kids from our school, it’s kids from all over. They don’t even have to be in high school. They may be out of high school and living in a home.”
High school students are encouraged to volunteer as buddies who assist the guests throughout the night.
“It takes a village in everything that we do and we have had hundreds of students that come and help,” Sutton said. “They help decorate as well. Different people work in different capacities. Not all of them are buddies. Some of them may work and just be runners or help set up tables for the dinner.”
The guests are given V.I.P. treatment and enjoy a night catered to their specific needs.
“They bring them around in limousines,” Sutton said. “They have a red carpet out and the kids get to walk up the red carpet from their limousine. Then they have a big dinner and of course they have the dance, which is the most fun part.”
Each guest is also honored individually at the event.
“They have a part of the evening where they call each of their names and they crown them the homecoming king or queen,” Sutton said. “Each one of them gets to go up with kids yelling and cheering for them, to put on a crown. It makes your heart so happy, watching how happy they are.”
According to the Tim Tebow Foundation, last year 200,000 people gathered worldwide to serve at a Night to Shine near them.
“It’s a fun thing to be a part of, so it was a goal for me to do it at least once in high school to see how it is,” senior Sonali Gandhi said. “I think the most exciting part of it is to see what you’re contributing and how you can have such a big impact on someone else’s life.”
Students were inspired to volunteer because of their teachers’ enthusiasm.
“Mrs. Sutton raved about how amazing it was,” Freeman said. “I knew I had to do it too.”
Those who have volunteered as buddies before quickly formed bonds with their partners during the evening.
“The most difficult thing is saying ‘Goodbye’ to your buddy because you get so attached throughout the night,” Freeman said. “At the end when their parents come and pick them up, it’s kind of sad because you won’t see them again but they’re your friends.”
Due to past success, this event has earned a reputation as being one of the top dances at the high school.
“It’s funny because all the high school kids that have ever worked this always come away more blessed than the special needs kids,” Sutton said. “They say they have more fun than their prom.”
Students who have been involved in the past recommend signing up to volunteer in the future.
“Everyone should sign up to be a buddy,” Freeman said. “It is pretty much the best experience you will have in your high school career.”
Sutton expects this year’s event to be rewarding for volunteers and guests alike.
“Whenever you focus on helping or serving someone else, I always feel like you’re more blessed,” Sutton said. “You’re focusing on having somebody else have a good time and therefore you end up having a great time too. It is such a blessing to see the smiles on their faces and the fun that they’re having.”