Story by Lisa Rice
For 115 individuals with special needs from Orange County and northern New Jersey, Fri., Feb. 9 was ‘A Night to Shine,’ as the Grace Community Church in Warwick NY hosted the Tim Tebow Foundation sponsored prom at the former Kings Elementary School in Warwick.
Nothing was overlooked as over 300 volunteers of all ages, created the perfect night. There was a Glam Shop, where guests could get primped up with formal hair and make up before receiving a corsage or boutonnière for their professional prom portrait. They took a spin in a limousine, before walking on a red carpet through a tunnel of twinkling lights into a prom that would rival any upscale venue. There was food and drinks. There were decorations. There was music and there was most definitely dancing.
Across the hallway, parents relaxed in comfortable cafes, near enough to share in their child’s excitement, but far enough to give them the space to enjoy the full prom experience. And enjoy it they did; some barely left the jam-packed dance floor.
“My son has been so excited,” said Laura Jimenez, of Washingtonville, NY, referring to her 20-year-old son, Kaelen. “On the way here he said to me, ‘Mom, I’m going to make new friends and dance all night.’ I’m totally and completely grateful. Everyone here is just so amazing.”
“This is just a wonderful event,” said Ingrid Kostycz, also of Washingtonville, NY, whose 18-year-old son, Danny, had been looking forward to wearing his purple bow tie. “The decorations are on point. I work summers at BOCES and I’ve seen a lot of buddies from BOCES. It’s just wonderful.”
Campus Coordinator John Kubisky worked along with Pastor Jason Ham to bring the event to Grace Community Church’s Warwick campus. Kubisky was charged with creating the environment and coordinating the volunteers. There were over 300 volunteers for the event.
“As our first event, we’re very happy with how this has turned out,” said Kubisky.
“This event just grew,” stated Pastor Jason. “Someone met me on the street two weeks ago and said, ‘hey, you’re having that prom, right?’ Word spread. This is our first event and it’s huge. Next year will be even bigger. We’re thinking of maybe having it at West Point or something.”
“Each of these people is King and Queen,” commented Mike White, Prom Crew Head. “This is about making these people the most special person in the world, because they are.”
White is a Special Education teacher and coach at Washingtonville High School.
“Night to Shine” is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with the mission to create a magical prom experience for people with special needs age 14 and older. More than 540 churches worldwide participated in the event, which is completely free for guests and their families.
And if the night isn’t magical enough, each guest receives a crown to bring home…that is, after being crowned King and Queen by the man himself. Halfway through the event, guests cheered and parents and volunteers were brought to tears, as Tim Tebow addressed the crowd via video announcing that they were all Kings and Queens.
“I hope you have the best night ever and dance the night away,” said Tebow. “We love you. God Bless you. And have an awesome night.”