Chenango Bridge UMC hosts Night to Shine
Proms are often imprinted on people’s hearts for the rest of their lives, but some individuals aren’t fortunate enough to know what it feels like to attend a prom. This is especially true among the special needs’ community. However, the Tim Tebow Foundation has made the dream of a prom possible for those who are differently abled.
Started four years ago, the Tim Tebow Foundation sponsored its First Night to Shine, an evening prom for those who are 14 years of age or older. The first year, the event was hosted by 44 churches with a total of 7,000 special guests. This year, the event was hosted by 655 host churches in every state in the United States, as well as 23 additional countries. This year, over 100,000 special needs individuals were able to experience a prom on Feb. 8.
This event is always held around Valentine’s Day and it’s not only about love, but also, about God’s love and supporting those with special needs.
Chenango Bridge United Methodist Church in the Binghamton District was a host church for this event and they had 75 guests attend. Bob Clark, pastor of Chenango Bridge UMC, said, “A Night to Shine was a night to shine God’s love on our special guests.”
Guests came from all over the Southern Tier and were supplied with prom dresses and suits that were donated. They arrived in limousines and walked in on a red carpet where they were greeted by many volunteers. Professional makeup artists and hairdressers volunteered their services to each of the special guests. The guests enjoyed a sit-down catered dinner and were able to dance the night away to music played by a professional DJ. Photos and videos were taken of the guests by a professional photographer and videographer. At the end of the evening, every special guest was crowned queen or king. The special needs community were able to truly enjoy royal treatment.
Pastor Clark expressed a couple of moving moments from the evening; he said, “A young man asked me if we could all come back tomorrow and do the prom all over again! Another heartwarming story was when a young lady told her buddy that she wanted to get out of her wheelchair to dance. Three people held her up, so she could move to the music. She was the best dancer I’ve ever watched!”
Caretakers had tears in their eyes, witnessing the joy experienced by their special guests. Over 100 volunteers made this event possible. One of the volunteers told Pastor Clark, “I just wanted to thank you for including me in on this amazing night. It sparked so much joy in me…it filled my heart! Thank you so much.”
Chenango Bridge UMC has been shifting toward an outward focus over the past year and the Night to Shine was just one amazing example of this shift. Many organizations in the community partnered with the church to help make this event memorable for the 75 special guests. Individuals and organizations in the community gave monetary donations as well as services. One-hundred-seventy-five adult volunteers and 115 youth volunteers helped at the event.
Pastor Clark said, “Events like this help the community get to know us and our heart.” A Night to Shine is one way that Chenango Bridge UMC represents God’s love to their neighbors in all places. Their leadership team has agreed to host a Night to Shine again next year.