Night To Shine

Last night I attended my first Night To Shine event.  This wonderful event is put on by the Tim Tebow foundation.  This event gives special needs teenagers and adults the opportunity to have a prom night experience that’s all about them.  Fortunately, I was able to register as a buddy before they closed registration.  I could not have signed up for a more amazing night.

As a buddy, it is our job to escort the attendee through their magical night.  From check-in until check out, our job is to make sure they have the time of their lives.  As this was my first time, I was a little nervous for the evening.   My nervousness dissipated quickly when I got to the church.  I quickly found my co-workers and took a seat in the sanctuary to wait for our guests to start arriving.

For the first time in three years, they had more than enough buddies, so I was able to pair up with my friend WL for the evening.  Our buddy arrived and it was clear from the beginning that we were a perfect match.  J, our buddy, was the life of the party and the Mayor of the event.  She knew absolutely everyone! Moreover, she had an infectious energy and happiness about her that was immediately apparent.

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We made our way into check-in, where they struggled to find her registration.  The Church’s, St. Paul Lutheran Church, event team and volunteer staff hopped into action immediately.  Within minutes, the snafu was fixed and J and I were ready to head to hair and makeup.  Her dress was resplendent and ethereal. She looked like a Disney princess.  It is no wonder she was the star of the prom.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was triumphantly walking the red carpet with her.  She freaking owned the carpet and the moment.  J is a star!  When we got into the prom, we headed to get her prom photo taken.  She was an absolute natural in front of the camera.  We left the photo area and entered the prom. Since we were both hungry, we made a beeline over to the food table.  Chic Fil-A donated all of the food for the event.  Chicken nuggets and mac and cheese never tasted so good.

We had barely sat down when J tired of eating and seemed overwhelmed.  Fortunately, I was able to keep her calm.  I quickly suggested hitting the dance floor, which put a huge smile on her face.  Not only could J work the camera, she could out dance most people I know.  We quickly figured out that we both loved Romeo Santos and Daddy Yankee.  As we danced, she was greeting everyone on the floor. She knew everyone!!!

WL was finally able to join us when it was determined they had enough buddies, so we had to double up.  Once WL joined us, the energy was out of this world and J was slaying it on the dance floor.  As we danced, she would hold our hand and thank us for being her friend.  We absolutely adored our buddy!  I could write all night about how we danced the night away, but there wouldn’t be enough words to describe how amazing it was for us.

One of the cool parts of the evening, was getting to know her parents during hair and makeup and the latter part of the dance.  They were incredible people.  Their daughter was one of the sweetest, kindest, most fun and generous people WL and I had ever met.   Her parents, much like her, were sweet, kind and fun.  We spent quite a bit of time talking after the event, which was nice.  While they thanked us for showing her a great time, we both felt that we should thank them for allowing us to be her buddy.

It was such an incredible experience to share the evening with J and her family.  When Tim Tebow came on the screen, the crowd when absolutely berserk.  To say they loved him, would be a gross understatement.  His message of love, faith, inclusion and celebration of special needs individuals was incredible.  As he closed out the message, we went into the countdown after which all of the guests were crowned either King or Queen of the prom.  The look on J’s face as we put the tiara on her head is one I will never forget.

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At the end of the night, I couldn’t help but feel that the night was just as much about us as it was the guests.  As I left the church, my heart was full, not just because I volunteered, but because of all the love, fun and memories we created with J.  Undoubtedly, it felt good to serve others, but she gave us and taught so much that I left with so much gratitude in my heart.  In fact, we’ve made plans to be therenext year to be her buddy again.  We’ve made plans to go shopping and get pedicures.  Meanwhile, her mom and I are planning on going to see Romeo Santos when he comes to town.

Its amazing how in volunteer to help others, those that you are helping teach you more about life and yourself than you could ever imagine.  Being a buddy or volunteer at Night to Shine was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It was an incredible event, which I will insist upon attending next year.  I am forever grateful to CS for the invitation.  Lastly, I’m forever grateful to J and WL for being my partners in crime last night.  Couldn’t have asked for a better buddy or partner than these two! #squadgoals

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If you’d like to know more about Tim Tebow’s Night To Shine, click here.

Tonight’s song, one of the last one played last night, performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes is “Time of My Life.”   Last night, we killed it on the dance floor dancing to this song.  P.S.  WL I totally would have caught you.

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