Individuals living under the spectrum of special needs and physical challenges enjoy a Night to Shine. (courtesy photo)

A Night to Shine is a special prom

By Terry L. Wilson

On Feb.7, Poway’s Trinity Church literally rolled out the red carpet to kick off a celebration honoring individuals with special needs.

“It’s called A Night to Shine because it’s a celebration of life, and a big part of life for most people was their prom,” said Todd Corrigan, Trinity pastor. “So, once a year, in conjunction with the Tim Tebow Foundation, we put on a special prom for individuals that may never have had the opportunity to attend a prom of their own.”

In 2014, National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow organized a handful of churches around the country to kick-start this annual party for individuals living under the spectrum of special needs and physical challenges.

“The prom started small with only a few churches. But seven years later it had snowballed into a national event with 750 churches worldwide. Every church has the prom on the same night, and it begins at the same time,” Corrigan said. “The prom isn’t just for teens and 20 year-olds. We have people in their 60s and older dancing the night away. Our special guests are on each side of the spectrum, ranging from Down syndrome, autistic, verbal, non-verbal and wheelchair-bound guests. The only restriction: you must have special needs and be 14 or older to attend.

“My wife, Katie, and I co-pastor together, and this event is very near and dear to our hearts because our nine-year-old son is under the spectrum. This was our third year doing the prom. For us, it’s very special because we get to celebrate not only our son, but we also celebrate everybody else, too.”

To make this night really shine requires a small army of volunteers. Each guest gets a professional hair and make-up makeover, handmade boutonnieres, a crown for the king and a tiara for the queen – because at this gala, everyone is named king and queen of the prom.

“We partnered with Living Way Church just down the street from us. That’s where our honored guests register. Afterwards, they are teamed with a buddy that will be their guest for the night. Since we had 200 guests, we also needed 200 buddies,” Corrigan said.

“Next was a short limo ride to our church, where they got off the bus and stepped onto a red carpet,” he explained. “Our special guests were greeted like rock stars. Lines of friends and volunteers applauded while paparazzi snapped picture after picture, just like they were movie stars going to a premiere. When they got in front of our banner, each person was photographed being crowned king and queen of the prom.”

With the pomp and circumstance completed, the dining and dancing got underway. SOS Entertainment provided the D.J., Chick-fil-A of Poway fed everyone; and for the special guests that got over stimulated, a Sensory Room provided a place to decompress and chill out.

Poway opened its heart and made this bash a night to remember with enough Kodak moments to fill a scrapbook or a hard drive.

Memories are precious, especially memories from prom night. Going to the prom has always been a rite-of-passage that stands the test of time. Thanks to the Tim Tebow Foundation, Poway’s Trinity Church and countless volunteers, hundreds of individuals with special needs will have those precious memories forever.