I want to introduce a dear friend, Cindy Jones. I have known Cindy for many years. We got to know one another at our church. We often found each other volunteering and having lots of fun in various children’s programs throughout the years. She has a heart of gold. She had the awesome opportunity to volunteer for Night to Shine 2017. I was delighted to see her posts on Facebook about it. I asked her to share her experience as a volunteer at this very special event.
“I was so blessed to be a part of Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine this year. Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. On one night, February 10, 2017, 375 churches, from around the world, hosted Night to Shine for 75,000 honored guests through the support of 150,000 volunteers!
I was familiar with the event, but had never participated before. A friend thought about me when she heard about it and sent me some information about it and I looked into it, and signed up. I volunteer at a hippo-therapy program at a local barn with special needs kids and enjoy the horses, people, and the kids each week. So, she knew I may be interested in this special night. I am so glad she sent me the information that allowed me time to do the training necessary to volunteer.
At our event, we had 300 guests and over 1000 volunteers, so the ratio was about 4 volunteers for each guest. I thought this was great because it allowed each volunteer time to get to enjoy the evening at some point with the guests-whether that be dancing, or eating with them, or singing karaoke with them.
Here is a list of the volunteer positions that we had:
Bathroom Attendant Team: Bathroom attendants will partner with Certified Nursing Assistants to monitor the bathrooms. Volunteers will assist with washing and drying hands, making sure clothing is straightened, etc. They will not assist with toileting.
Caregiver Event Team: This event is specifically for the parents/caregivers of our guests. It takes place in the Fellowship Hall during the prom. Volunteers are needed to assist with greeting, serving, praying for and loving on each person who attends.
Coat Check Team: As guests and parents arrive, volunteers will greet them and offer to take their coat. Volunteers will work at a station with coat racks in the grand foyer using a number and color coded system to store all coats and return them to the guests at the end of the night.
Decorating Team: Volunteers will make decor items to go on tables, etc. Arts and crafts, hot glue gun, possibly painting will be included. This team will not present during the actual event.
Food Service Team: Volunteers will partner with Chick-fil-A team members to assist our guests with their meal. Some will serve food or help guests to carry their plates to a seat. Others will clear the tables for the next guests. Volunteers must be willing to work hard and move quickly; running from one area to another as needed and to be on their feet for several hours.
Games/Activities Team: Volunteers will interact with our guests by playing games, coloring, etc. Need to be able to stand for long periods of time, be patient and sensitive to the needs/challenges of our guests.
Greeter Team: Greeters will show kindness & love to all our guests as they enter all areas of our buildings. Also, provide safety in hallway and door areas as our guests enter and leave.
Hairstyle Team: Experience needed: Members of the hairstyle team will be doing touch ups and simple prom styles. Styling volunteers need to have experience with straightening/curling hair.
Karaoke Team: Volunteers will interact with our guests during their performance or assist with calming them. Need to be able to stand for long periods of time, be patient and sensitive to the needs/challenges of our guests. Be ready to “cheer them on” and have a good time!
Make-up Team: Volunteers need to have professional experience with color cosmetics. Volunteers will be standing the majority of the evening and serving guests with makeovers including eye, lip and cheek application. Color will be provided.
Red Carpet Team: Volunteers will celebrate our guests and their families as they enter/exit the red carpet area as well as at the limousine ride areas. They will also celebrate as the caregivers enter their event.
Set Up Team: Volunteers will be setting up wooden chairs, placing linens, table centerpieces and all decor items for the event.
Shoe Shine Team: Shining will take place most of the evening. Volunteers need to be able to kneel to shine shoes. Training will be provided on site.
Tear Down Team: Volunteers will take down tables/chairs and other items as needed to prepare the church for Sunday. Some heavy lifting may be required.
Valet Parking Team: Valet parkers have the privilege of being the “first touch” as they greet our guests at the red carpet and serve the drivers by parking their cars at the beginning and returning them at end of the event.
I had a couple of friends join me on the red carpet team. I think we got some of the best seats for the excitement. They also had a DJ for the dance that played awesome dancing music. I had a friend on the makeup team, the caregiver banquet, and some joined me on the red carpet team.
Each guest is required to be accompanied by a buddy who will provide companionship and any general assistance needed during the event. The buddies were amazing! They made sure that everyone was having fun. It was so cute to see them dancing with the guests in wheelchairs and spinning them around. They were also there to pick up someone who may have gotten so excited running down the red carpet that they may have gotten tripped up.
It was so exciting to see them get their evenings started off with us. I was at the front of the line, and was lucky enough to get a lot of high fives on their way down the red carpet. The cheering was tremendous and even the nervous ones in the beginning usually had a big smile on their face half way down. Everyone was dressed up and looked beautiful! You could tell they felt beautiful as well. A highlight is always the crowning ceremony, but I wasn’t able to see any of that part of the night.
We greeted all 300 guests with excitement, clapping, posters, high-fives, chanting their names sometimes, etc. After that, we quickly headed to the caretaker event, where we did the same for the parents as they walked in to their night. Once they got the kids settled in, they came down to another building for their event. It was decorated beautifully and they were treated to a delicious steak dinner. They also had a comedian come in as a treat to the parents/caretakers. I can’t imagine how exhausted some of these parents are, so it was so nice to see them get treated as well. I was told that some of these parents hadn’t been away from their kids in years and this was the first time together as a couple in many years. I am so glad that the parents trusted us enough to take care of their child and take some time off to laugh and enjoy a nice meal together.
It was also fun to see the parents come up at the end of the evening and see their kids having so much fun. I had one dad hiding behind a column ask me to take his son’s picture on the dance floor having a blast because he said that his son would stop if he saw him. I had another mom watch her son from a distance on the dance floor and laugh so hard when I told her about what he had been doing out there-he was having a blast with anyone and everyone who would dance with him. Another treat for the night was a “team” of local football players came from 2 schools and joined in the fun with their guest (I assume he is a loved player with the team). They were one of the highlights of my evening watching them support and love on these kids. They danced and did the worm and the kids all seemed to love it. While watching one of the kids from the barn that I work with, the group of football players were having fun on the dance floor. 2 of them picked a girl up (one under each arm) and the girl loved it! But the boy from the barn was across the group watching this and you could tell he wanted them to pick him up too. It didn’t take long before he asked them if they could pick him up, and sure enough they did. I LOVED the grin on his face. This was their opportunity to just hang loose and dance and enjoy the night.
Karaoke was a lot of fun and the support from everyone in there was incredible. I listened to a couple of songs on my way to another area.
Spider man and the Disney princesses showed up as well, and the kids loved getting pictures with them and talking to them.
Some of the guys got their shoes shined-sometimes they enjoyed it so much they did it several times. J Girls had access to a hair station and makeup station. There was also someone doing face paint and some of the fanciest balloon hats and sculptures that I have ever seen!
At the end of the evening, the parents and guests went back out through the red carpet again to roaring cheers. Some of the parents were tired and tried to sneak out another door, but once the kids saw that they could walk down the red carpet again, each one I saw ended up going back in just to walk the carpet one last time. I mean really, who wouldn’t enjoy that??
It was such a special evening for everyone involved. There were smiles everywhere you looked and everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives, including the volunteers. I know the guests looked forward to this night for a long time, and I think they will have happy memories for a long time when they think about the evening.
This was a night I will always remember!! I didn’t get to take many pictures because I was busy having a great time. The smiles on their faces meant the world to me. And these “kids” know how to party. I told my son it was much more fun than any prom I ever went to when I was a teenager. They sing and dance and move and don’t care about what anyone may be thinking about them…they are just having fun!! How can you not love that???
Also, I keep referring to them as kids but there were plenty of adults with special needs too. And they were having fun as well. Some of the guests were much older and seeing them dance with their walkers was pretty cool too!
I already have several friends that want to participate next year with me, so I am looking forward to that as well.
Oh, and they did have a “quiet” room if anyone needed it during the evening as well as special needs experts and security walking around during the event. I’m not sure how many years this church has done the event, but they did an awesome job hosting it and keeping everything organized and thought about every possible situation. Our job was just to love on the guests and their caretakers and ensure that everyone had an evening they will always remember. And I think we succeeded in that!
I would encourage anyone with special needs (14 and up) to be on the lookout for next year’s event. We had all kinds of special needs, all ages, some wheelchair bound, some walkers, some nonverbal, etc. … I think you get the idea that everyone is invited and everyone can have a night to shine!”