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Night to Shine continues expanding, bringing love to Midlands

Shelita Rose experienced her first prom Friday night thanks to the Night to Shine dance sponsored by The Tim Tebow Foundation.

Rose has an intellectual disability and for once in her life she felt like a queen complete with her crown bestowed upon her that night.

“I’ve never been to a prom before,” said Rose who attended the Lexington location. “I can’t wait to go (again) next year.”

Rose celebrated her uniqueness along with other individuals from 14 years to older adults. Night to Shine is a prom night experience focused on bringing the red carpet treatment to all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other special needs. The dance is in its fourth year with over 500 churches across the country hosting Night to Shine events. The event has even expanded worldwide to countries including Haiti and Kenya.

In the Midlands, Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church and Harvest Church connected to host the Lexington location at Mt. Horeb UMC, while Shandon Baptist Church hosted their first event in
Columbia. Shandon Baptist’s Night to Shine organizer Allison Caldwell was amazed at their turnout, saying “What an incredible night. As first-timers, we’re overwhelmed and so in awe of God’s work in the hearts of those who attended and those who served. This was such a heartwarming, joyous experience for everyone involved.”

Shandon welcomed more than 300 volunteers and guests as far as Kershaw County. The farthest a guest traveled was 74 miles.

With both places combined, well over a hundred special guests walked the red carpet, had professional pictures taken and lit up the dance floor most of the night. Guests like Rose along with her
boyfriend, Donta Henry, couldn’t stay off the dance floor. Rose especially loved receiving a crown during the moment when all guests were crowned kings and queens.

“I’ve never worn a crown before,” she exclaimed. “This is cool!”

While munching on some cookies, Rose explains that opportunities don’t come often like this for her. She lives in a boarding home here in South Carolina and while it’s ok, activities like this are few and far between. She visits with her boyfriend who lives in his own apartment with minimal support for chances to get out and about. Rose expressed her interest in living independently one day.

While this was Rose’s first Night to Shine, many guests returned for their second or third year. Rose is already looking forward to next year and hopes to be able to afford a formal gown, she explains.

From the crowning to the décor, she was impressed with everything. In fact, she was so impressed she wanted to take some balloons home just to remember this night. All guests remembered their night with other souvenirs and plenty of pictures. They made new friends and took plenty of selfies with their buddies.

All guests are paired with a buddy during the night, encouraging each other to get to know one another. Buddies encouraged their dates to dance or sit and talk if that’s their preference. The main objective was for buddies to serve and be a companion.

After all, loneliness is statistically higher for people with intellectual disabilities, according to research from the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities. This is due to the fact that cognitive, physical and mental health problems are already associated and thus loneliness is compounded even more.

Night to Shine began as an opportunity under the Tim Tebow Foundation to show all people with special needs that their life matters and God has a plan for them while changing people’s
perspectives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The movement keeps growing.

From the Columbia location, one family was especially thankful for the prom and how it made their daughter feel just like everyone else.

“We wanted to thank you and your wonderful church family for sponsoring last night’s Night to Shine prom. It was beautiful. As parents of a daughter with special needs, it warms our hearts to know that there are people who care about those who are usually forgotten or pushed to the side. Our daughter felt importance from her peers (and) not just from a doctor or someone who has to pay attention to her,” the family wrote. “What a blessing! We loved the thought that went into the parents’ room, too. Parents rarely get a respite, and your family provided it with grace and compassion. All of the volunteers were cheerful and made us feel welcome. Every detail was addressed. Even the gift bag was beautiful. Again, thank you and your church family for giving our family a night we’ll never forget. Please pass on our appreciation to your church members.”

Individuals like the young girl and Rose are thankful for this movement providing them with opportunities to keep shining and focus on themselves instead of their disability. Learn more about
Night to Shine and other movements under the Tim Tebow Foundation by visiting timtebowfoundation.org.

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