When I volunteered at Night to Shine Tallahassee two years ago, I didn’t really know how things worked. (Night to Shine is an event through the Tim Tebow Foundation to give people with special needs ages 14 and up a “prom night” experience.) I signed up to volunteer wherever I was needed. As a result, I ended up volunteering at the “Parent Prom,” which is an opportunity for the parents of the guests to have their own relaxing dinner.
Serving the Parent Prom was fun, and I know it filled a need, but I knew that the next time I volunteered, I wanted to do so as a “buddy” (a volunteer paired with a guest to help them enjoy all the festivities).
I knew the box to check this time, submitted to the background check, went to the required training, and became a buddy!
When the guests arrive, they are paired up with their buddies and enter the Night to Shine event through a lighted archway, traversing a red carpet, as “paparazzi” cheer them on (and do silent cheers for guests who have autism or other reasons to prefer a more quiet tribute).
My new friend, Stephanie
I was paired with Stephanie, who definitely wanted applause! With her beautiful dress and infectious smile, she definitely deserved the enthusiastic welcome she got.
The surprise of the night
The list of activities at Night to Shine is lengthy. We went to hair and makeup, petted a bunny, saw a “zebra” and a llama, enjoyed a meal, and went dancing.
At one point, other attendees told us to re-line up at the red carpet for a “surprise.” (I knew it had to be a big surprise, because by then it had gotten pretty cold outside!)
I had an idea of what the surprise may be, partially because I heard similar rumors the last time I served at NTS. The founder, Tim Tebow, doesn’t live all that far away (Jacksonville). Would *he* be the surprise?
Before I reveal the surprise, let me say this. As a Florida State fan, it’s possible I have been involved in a few snarky conversations over the years involving Tebow because he was the quarterback for our big rival, the University of Florida.
There’s no debating his athletic talent.
But I’ve learned about a different talent of Tim’s. I’ve seen him grant the wish of my sweet young friend, Lauren, a cancer survivor. I heard him speak to the NTS attendees (his speech is broadcast simultaneously to the 721 participating locations) the last time I volunteered. He is using his talents to lift others up and to inspire the 215,000 volunteers who serve the roughly 115,000 guests.
And (drum roll please and also please disregard the fact that I took this video vertically!), he showed up in person to the Tallahassee Night to Shine 2020!
But there was talent all around
I was excited that Tim Tebow showed up, mainly because I know how much it meant to the guests, who were *enthralled*!
It was the less famous talents, though, that really made the night magical to me. The people with logistical talent who put the whole event together. The artists who performed (cheerleaders, baton twirlers, bands), the hair and makeup artists, the animal therapy facilitators, whoever had the creativity to bring the “Greatest Show” theme to life.
A more personal moment toward the end of the night melted my heart. Stephanie wanted to do something else besides dance and participate in the “longest conga line” so although the evening was winding down, we headed to the music therapy activity.
The music therapist knew Stephanie, and was not surprised when her request was “Tears in Heaven.” Stephanie had told me earlier in the evening that her grandmother had taken care of her; I gathered that it was after her grandmother died that she ended up living in her current group home facility. She said the song was for her grandparents.
And God bless this music therapist; she anticipated the request, had been practicing it and somehow in the midst of a loud and fairly hectic room, made a “moment” and played “Tears in Heaven” just for Stephanie. It brought back so many memories of the music therapists who used to come to our house when my father-in-law was with us, and how something deep in his brain was awakened by the music in a way nothing else could.
It was a memorable night, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Here’s a wrapup video shot by someone with a bit more video expertise than I have!
I am linking up with Five Minute Friday for the prompt “talent” (even though this took longer than five minutes to put together!).
I am also linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt, “The last time my heart melted was because…”
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.