Over the last five years, the local Kitsap community has steadily increased its support for an interactive and memorable prom night experience dedicated to special needs individuals.
Last Friday night, Newlife Church in Silverdale hosted its fifth Night to Shine at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. The event is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and is available for people with special needs who are 16 and older. These types of events are put on all over the globe by the Tim Tebow Foundation, according to Jason Oberholtzer, the creative director for Newlife Church.
Every participant received the royal treatment, including a limousine ride and a red carpet experience. Inside the venue, hair and makeup stations were at the ready, as were shoe shining areas, a karaoke room, photo opportunities and a dance floor to let loose. Throughout the night, each guest is paired with a “buddy,” who dances, takes pictures and visits each station with the guests.
“We were kind of looking at this event and thought that the heart of this event is just incredible,” Oberholtzer said. “We just felt like it really fit for this community.”
“The first couple of years, [TTF] provided a lot of support to get you up off the ground from an organizational standpoint,” Oberholtzer continued. “It’s just amazing to see this model work because ultimately they kind of know intuitively that this is one of those events that the community wants to be involved in, and they begin year after year to sort of hand over some of the organizational, and even funding components of the event as well.”
Each person was also personally celebrated and crowned prom king or queen. Last year’s event had over 400 guests in attendance with the support of over 1,000 volunteers and caregivers. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation’s website, Night to Shine 2019 was hosted by 655 churches across the United States and in 24 countries.
“What we’ve seen over the years is that there’s more and more community sponsors that are getting involved,” Oberholtzer said. “What we notice also is when someone sees the event and experiences the event, just the impact of this event on a personal level really compels people to get involved. It comes through in their faces, it comes through their expressions, it comes through in every aspect of the event.”
The ever-growing event initially came about when Newlife Church began a special needs ministry, according to Night to Shine Co-Leader Melinda Bortolazzo. Another church nominated Newlife to host an event like this and the rest is history.
“We’re kind of pushing the margins of our community,” Bortolazzo said. “This is just a great way to bridge the community and the individuals with special needs. They’re just amazing people and they bring me so much joy.”