CBC gives ‘Night to Shine’ to special needs community

ALABASTER – A local church has found a new way to make an important milestone more inclusive to the special needs community in the Birmingham area. For the second consecutive year, Community Baptist Church in Maylene partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation to host Night to Shine, a special needs prom for children and adults over 14, on the evening of Friday, Feb. 9.

“It’s about giving a community of people an incredible night, and to making them feel special,” Pastor Bo Brown said. “It’s also about being a church that loves and serves our community.”

According to Night to Shine event coordinator Mandy Mealer, over 80 guests attended and were treated to a large dance floor with a DJ and a catered buffet. Mealer said the purpose of the event was to give those with special needs the opportunity to enjoy a night out and attend prom like most high school students do.

“There’s not a lot around here for people with special needs to do,” Mealer said. “This is something that they might not ever get to do otherwise.”

In addition to the features of a traditional prom, a variety of extra activities were added. Guests were welcomed into the building on a red carpet and cheered on by “paparazzi” and volunteers. Hair and makeup professionals were onsite to give female guests touch-ups, and shoe shining was available for male guests. Separate rooms were also designated for a photo booth, karaoke and board games.

“This is supposed to be a night that we meet them where they are,” Brown said. “Some guests may not be able to dance, but they will love the games or karaoke so much that they don’t want to leave.”

At one point during the event, all of the guests gathered on the dance floor and were each crowned as a prom king or queens.

“It shows that, in God’s eyes, they are special, they are loved and they are all kings and queens,” Brown said.

During the first Night to Shine in 2017, Mealer said 50 guests attended. This year, she said the guest list almost doubled.

“We prayed for 50 last time, and we got exactly 50,” Mealer said. “We prayed for more this time, and I’m just shocked at how many people we’ve got. We’re not trying to do just a dance.”

Volunteer Beth Vincent said the church and Night to Shine volunteers went “over and beyond.”

For Scott and Charlotte Graham, Night to Shine served as an event for their whole family. Their 25-year-old son, Josh, attended as a guest, and their daughter served as a volunteer.

Scott and Charlotte Graham said the family enjoyed Night to Shine, and wished there were more events for adults with special needs.

“Josh came last time, and he had such a good time. When he got out of school, there just wasn’t as much to do,” Charlotte Graham said.

“We really have to go out and find things now,” Scott Graham added.

Thompson High School freshman Caleb Fleming said he has attended Night to Shine for both years, had a blast both times and made memories that will last a lifetime.

“I’m just here to have fun and to have a chance to shine,” Caleb said. “I wanted to bring back my memories from last year and enjoy it again.”

For Night to Shine in the future, Brown said the church is exploring ways that they can expand, and could possibly rent a larger venue space of partner with a local church. He also encouraged other local churches to get involved with the Tim Tebow Foundation and host other Night to Shine events.

“The church is called to be outside of its walls,” Brown said.

To see more photos from this event please visit www.shelbycountyphotos.com.