PHOTOS: Highland Park Community Church Hosts ‘Night to Shine’ Event for Guests with Special Needs
As the name implies, Friday was, indeed, a night to shine.
Every year, Highland Park Community Church hosts an adult prom for individuals living with special needs. People aged 14 and older were invited to the church for a night of food, drink, dance, games, and more.
There was even a karaoke station!
The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsors the 'Night to Shine' for Highland Park and various other churches across the world and it's a night for attendees to dress up, put on their dancing shoes, and make some memories that will last the rest of their lives.
"Night to Shine is a complimentary event for people with special needs hosted by local churches around the world," the Tim Tebow Foundation website states. "The event is open to anyone living with disabilities, ages 14 and older. Although each event is a little bit different, some activities included are a red carpet entrance, limousine rides, dancing, karaoke, gifts, a catered dinner, a Respite Room for parents and caregivers, a crowning ceremony where every honored guest will receive a crown or tiara, and more – Night to Shine is a celebration of God’s love for YOU, our Kings and Queens!"
That's exactly what happened on Friday night and it was thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers.
"We haven't been able to do this since 2020," said Barbara Flinn, the Special Needs Director for Highland Park Community Church, as well as the Night to Shine Coordinator. "We did two drive-throughs, which were fun, but we couldn't really be with our guests. The Night to Shine is a worldwide event and this was the first year in a long time that we were able to come together."
Flinn stated that people from Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie attended the event and Highland Park was packed to the brim with guests. It was truly a sight to behold.
"I've run the Night to Shine for six years," Flinn stated. "And I just love it. Every year it gets bigger and it gets better. It's more exciting and more people know about it. More people are coming, and it's just a lot of fun. I mean, you watch the red carpet, and you're hooked."
It's true. Attendees line up and, one-by-one, they are led down a red carpet. A volunteer asks the guest if they would like noise or not. If they say yes, then as they enter the main dance hall, countless people are lined up on the sides, cheering them on. It could be overwhelming for some - which is why they ask - but for the majority, it's a chance to feel like an absolute superstar.
And that's what these men and women are. Countless guests were dressed to the nines, men in suits, women in gowns, all with a smile across their face.
"It's just great," Flinn said. "This is a population that doesn't get as much attention, on the average. So tonight, it's just joy, it's love, and it's happiness. It's just a great opportunity for us to really love on people."
Which is the biggest reason why it is held, year after year, a few days before Valentine's Day.
"Why February?" Flinn rheotorically asked. "Why tonight? It's always the Friday before Valentine's Day, so that we can take the love off of each other and put it toward God, and put it toward them."
And oh, were they loved.
Guest after guest were seen dancing with their friends, with their family, with each other. For many of these guests, joy hasn't always been easy to come by. They've had to experience things, some since birth, that have been incredibly difficult. But for one night, anyway, they were able to forget about those things. They were able to dance. They were able to play games. They were able to eat some incredible food. And they were able to have a night where they were the stars of the show.
"It's my favorite night of the year," Flinn said. "It's just total happiness. You'll go from tears to full joy, to smiles. Once you're here, you'll come back again because it's just that magical."
It was magical. It was beautiful. It was powerful. So many people came together to celebrate these guests. For the guests, themselves, it was a night to remember. It was a night to dance, a night to play, a night to feel so, so loved.
It was, in fact, a night to shine.
Video and photos from the event can be seen below: