When Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow decided to throw an annual party for those with disabilities, he found plenty of interest.
The vision was simple: work with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience, especially for those ages 14 and older, “centered on God’s love for people with special needs.”
In 2014, the first Night To Shine drew 7,000 guests. Last year, that number was closer to 90,000 guests, requiring 150,000 volunteers. This year’s event on February 8 promises to be the biggest yet.
Two key factors helped fuel the growth: local churches and Shindigz, the online party planning store headquartered in NE Indiana.
“(The guests) truly feel as if they are a movie star. (They smile so much) their cheeks hurt at the end of the night,” said Shandra Hathaway, Pastor of Children’s Ministries at Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne
Dan Haight, Shindigz CEO agreed.
“Well, that’s the goal, right? To create that one night for these individuals with special needs to do something really unique and special. And so everything (is there) that you would expect if you are a superstar and you’re going to be showing up for your red carpet.”
Shindigz is responsible for providing each of the 600+ locations around the world an official “Night to Shine Prom Kit” including
- Night to Shine branded decorations
- Red carpet
- Step & Repeat backdrop featuring the church’s logo alongside the official Night to Shine logo and the Global Partner logos
- Personalized retractable Night to Shine welcome banner
- Night to Shine table runner
- Exclusive gifts and message cards for the honored guests
The banners and personalized items are printed at the Shindigz facility in South Whitley and then added into the package of goodies each site receives.
“Last year, we sent out about 90,000 crowns and tiaras,” said Haight. “This year, we expect it’s going to be close to 100,000 and over hopefully over 100,000. And so it’s really important to to Tim in particular, that every one of those young people has that crown or tiara to make sure that they know that this is a night about them.”
Haight is confident Shindigz can fulfill all the orders well into the future, no matter how big the event becomes.
At Emmanuel, Hathaway says the cost is free and they still have limited space available. They work hard to accommodate people with any disability.
They are also looking for additional volunteers to “buddy” with each guest, provide licensed hair and makeup services, serve food, or create bouquets and boutonnieres, You can sign up a guest or volunteer at their website.
Other local host churches include:
- County Line Church of God, Auburn
- Family Christian Center, Defiance, Ohio
- LaGrange First Church of God, LaGrange
- Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Warsaw
- Bachelor Creek Church of Christ, Wabash.