‘Night to Shine’ highlights neglected community

Love. It’s associated with hearts, flowers and February, and for most people, love is linked to romance.

For the last three years, the Tim Tebow Foundation has used this month to share a different kind of love through Night to Shine.

Night to Shine is a prom for individuals, 14 and older, who have special needs. Last Friday night, First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland opened its doors to host this event for the second time.

The honored guests pick their outfits, get their hair and make up done, ride in limousines, take pictures and dance the rest of the night away.

From local congregation members to those who drove almost an hour to serve, volunteers came to participate for this one night. A few, though, were just a couple of blocks away.

“We all got involved because you know, we all love prom and thought it was a cute idea,” FSC women’s lacrosse player Taylor Gillis said.

Gillis was not the only lacrosse player to volunteer as the entire team was helping alongside her.

“Our team is kind of all or nothing,” teammate Dani Bursinger said. “If one person’s on board, we are too.”

The team served food to both the guests and their guardians, who stayed in a back room and watched the prom on a monitor.

Gillis said it was great to serve the guests’ guardians since they were also giving their time to be at the event.

Other Florida Southern students, such as Chase Hoyt and Luis Rivera, also came to serve wherever help was needed.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one in five people have a disability. However, the disabled community is arguably one of the more neglected groups in the United States.

In a statement, Hillary Clinton said those with disabilities have half the employment as able-bodied workers but double the poverty rate.

In a time where it seems like politicians or the average population does not appreciate these individuals, Night to Shine strives to show the community that there is a place where they will be loved and welcomed.

“I think it’s important to have these types of events,” Hoyt said. “We have to understand that they’re no different from us. This event shows it.”

The Tim Tebow Foundation stated they wanted to provide a night where people with special needs can feel valued.

“Honestly, it’s just a fun, happy event,” Gillis said. “They need [volunteers], and who doesn’t love dancing and brownies?”


*This story was produced for COM 4300 News Media Projects. Any comments regarding this story can be directed to the course instructor, Beth Bradford (mbradford@flsouthern.edu).


Get involved with Night to Shine

Interacting with those with special needs

Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability Neglect

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