On the same night, Night to Shine took place at 726 host churches in 56 countries, all 50 states and six continents.
In the 10th year of the event, it was the biggest yet, according to the Tim Tebow Foundation.
The prom night experience centered on God’s love for people with special needs ages 14 and older was hosted by local churches around the world, including Seymour Christian Church for the third year.
Although each event is a little bit different, some activities included are a red carpet entrance, limousine rides, dancing, gifts, a catered dinner, a Respite Room for parents and caregivers, a crowning ceremony where every honored guest receives a crown or a tiara and more.
At Seymour Christian Church on Friday night, after each of the 84 guests signed in, they could have their shoes shined, receive a corsage or a boutonnière and have their hair done or makeup applied by volunteers before walking down the hallway to get their pictures taken with a special backdrop.
Then as they entered the sanctuary, they were introduced as kings and queens for the evening. As they sat down with their buddy for the night and/or their family members or caregiver, they ate dinner before disc jockey Shawn Charlton played music as they took to the dance floor.
Toward the end of the event, there was a brief break for a message from SCC Lead Pastor Steven Bruce and a video message from Tim and Demi Tebow with the Tim Tebow Foundation before the guests received a tiara or a crown.
“You’re here because there is a God who loves you, who loves you just the way you are,” Bruce told attendees.
“Jesus came so that you could have life with him, and all of us are the children of God,” he said. “That means that no matter what your past might be, no matter what you might be feeling right now, there is a God who loves you, there is a community here who loves you and wants you to know that Jesus came so that you could have life with him and that you could experience the love that I hope you’re feeling tonight, just a taste of how much God loves you.”
Since its inception in 2010, the Tim Tebow Foundation has served those who are hurting, marginalized and trapped in darkness in 86 countries and counting, according to timtebowfoundation.org. In addition to ministry operations and services that meet some of the most dire physical needs, the foundation has a heart to share the gospel with as many vulnerable people as possible to help them know their inherent value as children of God.
The four main focuses of the foundation are anti-human trafficking and child exploitation, orphan care and prevention, profound medical needs and special needs ministry.
Night to Shine is part of the latter initiative, hosted by churches around the globe that desire to share the love of Christ with their community of people with special needs.
This was the second year for Chelsie Keith of Retreat to attend the event in Seymour.
“For the prom, just to dance and just make new friends,” she said of why she initially went last year and why she returned this year. “Just to get to know people, dance and just see everybody happy and cheerful.”
It didn’t take her long to pick out a pink dress after walking into Prestigious Affairs in downtown Seymour.
“I’ve got a friend named Bobby (Eldridge) who owns that dress shop, so I saw this and I’m like, ‘That is the one,’” Keith said. “Just the feeling of it and it also reminds me of Sleeping Beauty.”
At the event, her buddy was Patricia DuSablon, a first-time volunteer.
“I wanted to do this because I had a special needs brother, and (local event organizers) came to Tri Kappa and were talking about it and I was like, ‘I am going to volunteer.’ I knew I was meant to be here,” DuSablon said.
She watched a video about the event to get an idea of what to expect.
“My heart is fuller than I could imagine,” DuSablon said, smiling. “I have an amazing buddy. I’m really thankful I got partnered with her. She’s showing me the ropes, and everybody is having so much fun, and they are so comfortable. It’s all about them, and we’re in a Christian environment, so it’s a safe environment.”
Keith said she enjoyed getting to know DuSablon as they ate dinner together, danced and rode in a limousine.
When asked what’s good about having an event like this locally, DuSablon said, “Everything.” She was among 162 volunteers.
“We embrace the community. We allow everyone to have a place,” she said, praising all of the buddies who came forward to help and Seymour Christian Church and The Arc of Jackson County for partnering to make it happen. “Seymour needs to embrace this and continue to let it happen.”
People also came from surrounding counties and other parts of the state. That included Rose Meurer of Charlestown and her boyfriend, Jacob Titus of Floyds Knobs.
It was their first time attending Night to Shine.
“My mom wanted me to try going to a new church, and I just wanted to be more with God and with Jesus,” Meurer said.
“I came here because I get to be with her, and then she would be happy, and I’m proud of her. I get to be with my queen,” Titus said, smiling.
He said his favorite part of the night was dancing, noting his favorite song was “The Chicken Dance.” Meurer liked dancing, too.
“I love dancing because I started when I was 5, so I’ve been doing it for 16 years,” she said. “Dancing is just a big gift, and also one more thing, I think what I am trying to become is a brand-new person. It also gives me lots of reasons to fall in love, and I finally found the man that I want to love and to marry someday.”
Receiving a tiara and a crown and being named prom queen and king topped off the night.
“He’s my handsome prom king,” Meurer said, smiling, of her date.
Titus’ mother, Patricia Titus, said it was her first time at the event, too.
“Mrs. Rose wanted to come. She wanted to get a tiara. She got exactly what she asked for,” she said.
Patricia said Titus was selected prom king for his senior prom at Floyd Central High School and Rose was his guest, and seeing them have fun and be crowned at Night to Shine made her night.
“It was very precious,” she said before showing a video of her son and his girlfriend slow dancing. “It was just a blessing and a feeling of community.”