In the last fifty years, the way in which Americans treat individuals with disabilities has been radically transformed. These people were once treated as the rejects of society, kept from enjoying the beautiful moments of life. Legislation such as the American Disabilities Act coupled with community and national awareness campaigns have radically altered the lives of disabled people. The Tim Tebow Foundation is one such organization, working to improve their quality of life.
Drawing on community volunteers, the organization puts on an annual evening featuring music, dancing and a wonderful party. As a volunteer, the first part of Night to Shine entails waiting in line to be matched with your date, a person you have never met. Later in the night you’ll find yourself dancing surrounded by people of all ages and walks of life. so that you are the same height as your “date” who is in a wheelchair. You’ll probably be on your knees so that you are in the same height as your date who is in a wheelchair.
Of course, there are things that can go wrong. Sometimes your buddy doesn’t want to talk to you, or they are content to hide in a quiet room the whole evening. Despite these unusual moments, Night to Shine is the best prom ever. Each guest in the room is blanketed with love, smiles, high fives and a spirit of unconditional acceptance. The volunteers serve with the goal of not just telling, but showing another human being their value.
On February 8th, 655 churches from 50 states and 24 countries came together to celebrate 100,000 guests. North Shore Community Baptist church was Cape Ann’s party spot for the night. There were 591 participants in total, consisting of 119 guests, 92 parents and caregivers, and 300 volunteers. Gordon students and faculty made up 95 of those volunteers.
The night held many activities, beginning with a walk down a red carpet decorated with cameras and cheering. After the red carpet walk, the guests met their dates, and were crowned prom queen or king. After eating, volunteers offered options to spend their night either dancing, singing or getting beautified at various booths. Though the guest were delighted with all that was prepared for them, the day left quite an effect on the volunteers.
“I was amazed, humbled, and absolutely delighted–a bit like a kid at Christmas–to find myself surrounded by so many friends at Night to Shine!” said one volunteer, “There were folks there I knew from my high school days, from my place of work, from my women’s bible study, neighboring church, and from different chapters of my life. All in one room, all invited to participate in something way, way bigger than ourselves. It gave me goosebumps.”
“It was an honor and privilege to be part of the event last night. This is my second year doing Night to Shine. Last night, as I was walking back to the dinner table to find my buddy, my guest from last year saw me. He immediately shouted my name, and ran over to hug me.” said another volunteer. “We only spent a few hours together over a year ago but he quickly recognized and remembered me and said he was so happy to see me.”
The love of God pervaded the night. The leadership team made sure that every guest, parent and caregiver recognized the constant cultural marginalization of people with disabilities. Conventional wisdom suggests that disabled people present challenges that are too hard to deal with. But Night to Shine promoted a different perspective. NSCBC built a team equipped to handle anything thrown their way. Because of this reality, Night to Shine felt like a glimpse of heaven, where all groups of people are accepted as they are, without judgment and only love.
The epitome of Night to Shine occurred when we all sang karaoke to a Frozen song for the tenth time. For volunteers and guests alike, this evening provided spectacular fun.