First Baptist Americus hosts unforgettable ‘Night to Shine’ event
AMERICUS — Approximately 800 individuals took part in the “Night to Shine” prom event for people with special needs at First Baptist Church in Americus in sponsorship with the Tim Tebow Foundation recently.
“This is a wonderful ministry for our community and for the Tim Tebow Foundation,” said First Baptist Church minister Keith Parks, when he addressed the over 130 special guests, their buddies, and many of the volunteers who helped make the event possible.
“The event this year was almost twice as large as the one that we hosted in 2016, and it would not have been possible without the support of so many individuals and volunteers who came together to make this a very special night for these individuals,” added Parks.
The smiles on the faces of the special guests, their parents, and the volunteers was truly heartwarming at the “Night to Shine.”
The “Night to Shine” guests and their volunteer “buddies” entered the church on a red carpet with throngs of volunteers and welcoming, friendly paparazzi. The guests received VIP treatment including access to hair and makeup stations, shoe shining stations, corsages and boutonnieres, a karaoke room, formal prom photos, photo booths, and of course, dancing!
There were also limousine and trolley rides, special game rooms, quiet rooms, a wide variety of food for the prom, and an area for parents/caregivers to relax and watch the entire event through streaming video.
The highlight of the night came when every one of the “Night to Shine” guests was introduced on the red carpet into the prom area, crowned as a king or queen of the prom, and then treated to a brief video welcome from Tim Tebow.
Over 375 churches from around the world participated in this awesome event and honored 75,000 guests through the support of 150,000 volunteers. This is the third year that that the Tim Tebow Foundation hosted the “Night to Shine” prom event and the second year that First Baptist of Americus participated.
“This event is a tremendous vehicle for the church and the community to share God’s love,” said Pastor Parks. “This is what church is supposed to look like.
“Our church was full of God’s people reaching out and sharing the love of God with other people and doing it with a smile on their face and gladness in their hearts,” continued Parks, who thanked all of the individuals and organizations who had a part in helping make this event become a reality in the Americus area.
Nearly 800 volunteers, special guests, and their parents were on hand for the actual event on Friday night, but there were at least twice that many individuals who helped prepare for the big event through donations of their finances, time, talents, cooking, and prayers.
“This was a tremendous event that involved individuals from every walk of life, and I am so proud of our community for committing to be a part of this project,” said Parks.
Dr. Valerie Moates, a member at First Baptist Church, heard about the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” inaugural event and encouraged First Baptist Church to consider undertaking this ministry.
“I cannot express the feelings that I had just reading about this event,” said Moates, who is the mother of four grown children, including one with special needs. “I knew we had to try to become a host church.”
Moates contacted Parks at First Baptist Church and shared the information about “Night to Shine.” She asked him if First Baptist Church would be interested in applying to be a part of the event in 2016.
“He and the church leadership agreed,” said Moates, “but I am not sure that any of us thought that we would be selected to host an event. I am not sure who was more shocked, him or me, when we got the letter in the mail congratulating us for being selected,” laughed Moates. “After the success that first year, there was no question that First Baptist would agree to be a part of it this year.”
A tremendous amount of work was done to prepare for the event and Moates and her committee worked non-stop to prepare the church and the community to host an unforgettable prom night for people with special needs.
The individuals who helped lead the over 1,000 volunteers included, in addition to Moates, Denise Burgess, Sylvia Johnson, Rebecca Wells, Lisa Holloway, Ruth Koopal, Gay Sheppard, Molly George, Amy Benton, Judy Spann, Donna Lee, Thurston Clary, Karen Smith, Chad Brown, Fred and Frances Rawlins, April Duke, Laura Faircloth, Laura Gerlach, Angie Hancock, Cyndi Gardner, Pam Grimes, and others.
The Georgia State Patrol, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and the Americus Police Department had volunteers to provide security for the event. The City of Americus trolley took guests and their “buddies” on rides and medical personnel volunteers from Phoebe Sumter Medical Center and local physicians’ offices were on hand to help out in the medical room if any guests needed that type of attention. College and high school students volunteered to serve as “buddies” for the guests of the event. Athletic teams volunteered to help the guests who needed additional assistance getting in and out of the limos and trolley and Boy Scout Troop 26 led by Hamer Abell spearheaded the effort to park cars.
“This was a God thing,” said Moates. “God was in this the entire time and I cannot adequately express my thanks to everyone who had a part in making this happen, including the Tim Tebow Foundation.”
Moates also revealed that 30 to 40 brand new prom Ddresses were donated as well as lots of gently used prom dresses from the community.
“It is incredible how many different people and churches had their hand it this. It was a beautiful thing,” said Moates.
Many of the parents of the special needs individuals were overwhelmed that someone would host an event like this for their children.
“My daughter would have never gotten to go to a prom, been a queen for a night, or dress up in a long gown for a prom or her wedding. This is all of those events rolled into one for me and for her,” said the mother of one of the guests.
Another parent said that the smile on their child’s face was worth everything.
“I am so happy because he is happy. He told me that this was the best night of his life.”
“This was wonderful,” said other parents who expressed their appreciation to everyone involved and to the Tim Tebow Foundation for their part in sponsoring the event.
As sponsor of “Night to Shine,” the Tim Tebow Foundation provided each host church with a detailed instruction manual, a Prom Kit complete with decorations and gifts for the guests, financial support and individualized staff guidance.
First Baptist Church in Americus also hosts a Celebration Service Sunday at 6 p.m. Sunday with testimonies, praise music, a slide show, and a highlight video. All volunteers, guests, parents/caregivers, and anyone who had a part or is interested is invited.
For more information on the Tim Tebow Foundation, visit www.timtebowfoundation.org.
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