A special prom night was celebrated Friday in Brunswick as part of a worldwide event, all with the help of a famous athlete’s foundation.
Brunswick Reformed Church and more than 350 churches worldwide hosted Night to Shine, an event partially sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, a former Florida college football star.
There were 104 special-needs adults dressed in their best formalwear getting pictures taken by a professional photographer on a red carpet, riding in one of two limousines and dancing the night away at Diamond Event Center, 1480 Pearl Road.
The Rev. Jay Carroll said the church teamed up with the foundation after hearing from another church that was having a similar event.
“We got the paperwork, went online and found out around Thanksgiving we were approved,” he said.
A grant for $7,500 was given to the church to cover costs. Adding in sponsorships and community donations, all 104 guests attended free.
Community members also “overwhelmed” the church with donations, including food, people’s time, and money, Carroll said.
The prom is held each year close to Valentine’s Day, Carroll said.
More than 75,000 special-needs individuals attended the event worldwide Friday.
Carroll said the church previously charged $15 per person when it held the event the previous six years.
Brunswick Reformed Church has a ministry program called God’s Friends Forever, which has had weekly meetings each Thursday for the last decade. Carroll said that the prom was an enjoyable way for members of the special-needs community to get together.
Carroll said he believes that Tebow did not start the foundation for notoriety. “To me, there’s no agenda. There’s no political tie or attempting to receive fame,” but rather to help people feel good about themselves, he added.
The “Night to Shine” provides a social opportunity for special-needs individuals ages 14 to adult, their caregivers and volunteers.
Each attendee was teamed with a “buddy,” who encouraged everyone to dance, have photos taken or go for a limousine ride.
Carroll said the church also was able to make arrangements for four guests at the last minute.
Guests received a goodie-bag filled with items including a frame to hold professionally taken pictures.
He noted that 225 volunteers as well as special-needs caregivers were celebrated.
The foundation gave guidelines for the prom that specified caregivers receive pampering with live music and a masseuse, Carroll said.
Dressed in gowns awaiting their “buddies” for the night were mother and daughter Mindy and Hannah Bazemore, of Sharon Township.
Mindy, a social worker, and Hannah, a student at Notre Dame South Euclid, decided to volunteer as buddies after hearing about the event through Brunswick Reformed Church, where they attend.
“They started talking about it at church,” prompting interest, Hannah said.
They were teamed with a special-needs couple, with whom they communicated by telephone to become acquainted before the prom, Mindy said.
“We were told they (the couple) like to kiss,” Hannah said, giggling.
For more information on Night to Shine and the foundation, visit timtebowfoundation.org.
Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.