image1New Canaan, CT - The Tim Tebow Foundation “Night to Shine” event held at Grace Community Church in New Canaan, partnering with STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way, brought young adults with special needs (our guests), their “buddy” peers, parents and volunteers together for an extraordinary evening of fun and celebration.
The Tim Tebow Foundation was formed to show God’s love to children around the world. Grace Community Church was one of the 380 locations worldwide to simultaneously host an unforgettable prom night on February 10th. At the event, a personal message of greeting from Tim Tebow welcomed participants who were encouraged to have fun, dance the night away, and realize that each individual makes a unique contribution to make our world better for all.
Julia Hughes and Monica Rowett of New Canaan were co-captains for the evening. Said Julia, "It's been an honor and privilege for Grace Community Church to host this incredible event, but more importantly to have worked side-by-side with so many people and organizations in Fairfield County.” She continued, “The night was not only a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the guests, but for everyone who participated. God's love for us has an amazing way of drawing people closer to each other, especially when we are focused on others."
Guests were each recognized as kings or queens, and joined by their peers and event volunteers for festivities including a celebrity-style red carpet greeting, crowning ceremony, stylish decorations, catered food & beverages, paparazzi parade, photo booth, dancing with a d.j., and karaoke.
The non-denominational event acclaimed the unique value of every individual. Katie Banzhaf, Executive Director of STAR said, “It’s impossible to overstate the wonderful spirit that was present in every aspect of the ‘Night to Shine.’ First and foremost were our guests who reacted to the outpouring of love and attention with uninhibited joy.” Banzhaf continued, “Executive Director Julia Hughes, her team at Grace Community Church, and the amazing volunteers were magnificent in sparing no effort to ensure that the guests were treated royally.”
Many of the leaders of the event were parents of the young adults or acquaintances who were guests. Cathleen Crowley-Piscitell of Weston, on the Paparazzi committee, said the reaction of her son Jack to the enthusiastic welcome was “a moment I will not forget.” Said Jack, “I got new shoes, a haircut and a limo ride.” For him, the karaoke was his place to shine.
Along with the guests were many supportive and grateful parents. Laurie Agostino of Norwalk said, “I can't tell you how amazing it is to watch your child's dreams come true!!!” Her son Joey was both a guest and the DJ for the evening. When asked why he enjoyed being a DJ for the event, he responded, “I love getting the crowd dancing and smiling—it’s so much fun."
For the guests, it was a chance to renew relationships and start new ones. Said Molly Cioffi, a student at New Canaan high school, “I was so excited to be with friends that I already know and to meet some new ones." At the end of the evening many parents shared their heartfelt gratitude with comments like this one that truly captures the essence of the event: “My son hasn't smiled like he did last night since he was a baby! All of you made it possible for my son to have his first "normal kid" experience ever. He actually felt like he was on a "date" with a pretty, kind girl. Thank you so much. As I write this, there are tears of gratitude in my eyes. May God bless all you a hundred-fold!”
Special thanks go to all of the organizations and friends who made major contributions, including:
Grace Farms Foundation
Danielle Farrer @ Flowers by Danielle
Mari Hailu @ Bed Head TIGI Haircare
Kerry Plante @ Blooms by the Box
Stephanie St. Louis @ Woodway Country Club
Peter Stevens @ Elegant Effects
Teddy Gianokos @ Peter's Wholesale Florist
Mike Carson @ Max Event Design
Shelia Bajaj @ SMB Interiors
Dan Weed @ Weed's Lawn Inc.
Danny Mara @ Gardella’s Elite Limousine
Joe and Justin Viesta @ Michael Joseph’s Catering
Mark Minnock @ Ride Productions
The Thomas Family Foundation
Photographers: Miggs Burroughs, Miguel Cruz, Jim and Cheryl Dunn, Christine Simmons, Valerie Stryker, Jessica Venus and Thomas Warren
To learn more about Grace Community Church go to: http://gracecommunity.info/
To learn more about the Tim Tebow Foundation go to: https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/index.php/stand-with-night-to-shine/
To learn more about STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way go to: http://www.starct.org/