Lit columns and twinkling lights. Sapphire and turquoise balloons. A rolled-out red carpet.
Prom night: For most young people in the United States, an opportunity like this is a given. But not so for boys and girls with mental or physical disabilities, who find that most events are created without their needs in mind. And for Kathy White of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, it’s personal.
White had previously served people with disabilities. But when her granddaughter, now 5 years old, was diagnosed with autism, she felt a new, deeper urgency. She began to consider all the ways in which her granddaughter—and children like her—might be excluded in the years ahead.
Then Night to Shine—an outreach of the Tim Tebow Foundation—appeared in her Facebook newsfeed, advertising proms designed for people with special needs. And Kathy knew she had to bring that magic to her community.
Night to Shine makes a prom night something local churches can host in their community, creating memories that last a lifetime for both invitees and their families. As part of the event, guests get their makeup and hair done, and each receives a crown at the end of the evening. For many, it’s the only time they’ll go to a school dance. And their caretakers get to enjoy an experience they never expected to have: These dances are often the first time they witness such a generous display of acceptance and affection for their loved ones.
White is proud to say that when she approached her church leaders with the idea, they agreed not only to hold the event but also to expand their special needs ministry. She likes to think that someday, when her granddaughter is old enough, she might find herself there, dressed in a beautiful gown—a corsage on her wrist and a smile on her face—dancing all night long to the music.
Photography courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation