Prepping for a ‘Night to Shine’
Throughout this week, the Ocean View Church of Christ has been getting its bling on.
Dozens of volunteers have spent time in the church putting up sparkly decorations and satiny swags. Giant metal-framed stars stand ready to be filled with balloons. Lots and lots of balloons.
That’s because, on Friday evening, the church will literally roll out a red carpet for about 100 special-needs guests age 14 to adult, as it hosts its fourth Night to Shine.
The event is meant to give those with special needs a night when they can experience all the glitz and glamour of proms — from the fancy clothes and limousine rides to music and dancing. There will be “paparazzi” greeting them and cheering as they arrive at the church. Instead of just one king and queen, each guest will receive a crown or a tiara during a ceremony at the end of the evening.
Night to Shine is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, and there are now events similar to the one at the Church of Christ that are held in all 50 states and 24 countries. Ocean View Church of Christ is one of 721 holding a Night to Shine event on Friday. Worldwide, approximately 100,000 guests will be honored, with support from 215,000 volunteers.
“It’s one of my favorite things in all my years of ministry,” said Church of Christ pastor Ethan Magee as he sat outside the sanctuary of the church on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
On Friday, Magee said, “This will be a happening place. We want everyone to feel like kings and queens of the prom.”
Each guest will have a “buddy” as an escort for the evening. Most of the buddies are local high school students — many of whom have been partnered with the same buddies for several years. Event coordinator Susan Timmons said the buddies are one of many blessings in the Night to Shine.
While the guests and their buddies dance the night away upstairs, the basement of the church is transformed into a relaxing space where parents and guardians can themselves enjoy a special meal, while watching a live video feed of the party above them.
Magee said that, for him, that is one of the best aspects of the evening. Date nights tend to be few and far between for those who parent people with special needs, he said, so the chance to sit, relax, receive a special meal while watching their loved ones having fun is quite a gift.
Aiding in the transformation of the basement is furniture that has been loaned to the church for the evening by six area furniture stores, Magee said.
The Ocean View church is one of only two in Delaware that host the Night to Shine event, he noted. Guests come from all over Sussex County, as well as Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to be feted for the evening.
In addition to the 100 or so guests and their buddies, about 200 volunteers will be on-site during the Night to Shine, from local police officers who come to hang out and dance, to emergency medical technicians and nurses who are on hand to address any medical needs.
Since part of the fun of proms and fancy dances is getting all dressed up, there will be volunteers at the Church of Christ ready to do special makeup and hairstyles for the girls and women. For the guys, free shoeshines will be offered.
Each guest will be given a framed photograph from the evening as a memento, as well as a Tiffany-blue backpack filled with goodies, including gift cards from McDonald’s and Chik-fil-A.
Magee said he is touched by the extent of the community involvement in the Night to Shine.
“The community has really embraced this,” he said. He praised the efforts by Timmons, whose grandson Josh Timmons has been one of the “stars” of the evening since its start at the Church of Christ. “She just puts so much into the evening,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without her.”
He recalled a conversation with one of the local police officers who attended Night to Shine: “He told me that the three best things that ever happened to him were his marriage, the birth of his child and Night to Shine.”
“It’s just the joy and the smiles on their faces,” Magee said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
By Kerin Magill