By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
BENTON, La. (LBM) – Tim Tebow helped give hundreds of special needs individuals in Louisiana Baptist churches the red carpet treatment Friday, Feb. 9.
Dressed in their formal attire, these special guests enjoyed a variety of activities to make them feel like kings and queens in God’s eyes at the tenth annual Night to Shine prom.
Four Louisiana Baptist churches were among the 726 churches in 50 states and on six continents that hosted the event, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The former Heisman Trophy and NFL quarterback started the event for individuals who have special needs.
From the beginning, the evening was magical for the guests, who were transported by limousine, trolley or classic car to a red carpet. Once there, they were greeted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers armed with cameras and cheers from the crowd.
Guests received the royal treatment, including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas, corsages and boutonnieres, a catered dinner, karaoke, prom favors and a dance floor.
All of this led up to the moment when each guest was crowned king or queen of the prom.
“726 host churches. 56 countries. All 50 states. 6 continents. ONE incredible night, and 10 years. Grateful. Thank you to everyone who was a part of year #10 of Night to Shine!” Tebow posted on his Facebook page.
Cypress Baptist Church, Benton, welcomed 470 guests who were served by more than 1,000 volunteers.
“The family of an autistic boy was overwhelmed with tears because they got respite last night,” Courtney Bouillon, Cypress’s south campus executive assistant and women’s minister, told the Baptist Message. “They got to enjoy a break and know that their son was being taken care of having fun. They told his buddy how much they enjoyed the evening. Gave her multiple hugs with lots of tears. This was truly an amazing night for not only our guests but parents and caretakers too.”
At First Baptist Church, Covington, 299 volunteers served 75 guests and 57 of their family members and friends. Pat Bourgeois, special friends coordinator at FBCC, said she was thankful for all those who turned out for the event.
“We are so thankful for the talents, dedication and enthusiasm of the approximately 300 volunteers from First Baptist Covington and surrounding churches,” Bourgeois said. “Night to Shine was a heartwarming event filled with love and admiration for individuals living with special needs in our community – a night to remember for guests and volunteers, as well.”
First Baptist Church, Ruston, 153 guests and 120 of their caregivers/parents pre-registered for the event. Pastor Clayton Owen said the more than 270 volunteers who served them came away blessed.
“Many, many people volunteer a lot of their time and talents in preparation for the night and at the event itself, but when you see those smiles and the pure joy they experience as they are celebrated it’s well worth the effort,” he said. “Caregivers and special guests are all reminded they are fearfully and wonderfully made and greatly loved, and the event is a special celebration where so many come together to express that message.”
Fellowship Church, Prairieville, celebrated the evening by hosting 183 guests. Alyssa Chauvin, special needs ministry director, said the 393 volunteers worked hard to make the night special.
“Night to Shine is one of our favorite nights of the year as we get to love our kings and queens,” she said. “From flowers and red carpet to crowning and dancing, the night was focused on each of them. Their value and worthy is certainly something to be celebrated.”
Chauvin enjoyed a moment when one of the guests expressed interest in accepting Christ.
“Our team performed a science experiment with bleach and iodine to communicate sin and the limitless grace of God,” she said. “My favorite moment was experiencing the emotion of a buddy volunteer as she shared that her queen was asking questions about surrendering her life to Christ.”