LUMBERTON — Teachers, parents and church members rolled out the red carpet recently for special needs individuals as part of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine prom.
More than 110 special needs individuals in Robeson County attended the prom at PowerPoint Church, which applied for and received a grant from the Tebow Foundation to partially pay for the event.
This year the program included 375 churches from around the world that played hosts to proms for 75,000 participants through the support of 150,000 volunteers, according to the foundation’s website.
Started in 2014, these proms celebrate special needs individuals by giving them a red carpet welcome with all the trimmings, including flashing cameras and a crown for each participant so everybody can be king and queen of the prom.
Churches partner with the Tebow Foundation in keeping with the professional athlete’s Christian faith and his commitment to reaching out to people in their darkest hours.
Nancy Hall is a member of Arc of Robeson County, a group dedicated to the support of people with special needs. She also is a member of PowerPoint Church, of which the Rev. Tim Bell is pastor. She credited Bell with the vision for seeking inclusion in the Night to Shine prom.
There aren’t a lot of activities available to the special needs population in Robeson County, Hall said, but the ones that are available, such as bowling and now the prom, are a hit.
One mother of an autistic child called Hall after the Feb. 10 prom and thanked her and others for their efforts.
“She said ‘You don’t realize what this has done for our family. We have had the privilege of seeing our other children dress for prom,’” Hall said. “‘We never thought we’d get to see our special child dressed for prom.’”
Supporters watching prom-goers exit their vehicles and walk the carpet were often moved to tears as they saw the excitement on their faces.
The experience was similar for Wanda Register, a foster mother to two special needs adults, ages 46 and 30, and acting chairperson for Arc of Robeson County.
Both are wheelchair bound and dependent upon others for almost everything. Even though they are non-verbal they were able to show their delight at attending the prom, Register said.
“They speak very, very much with their expressions,” Register said. “They had the very best time. They all received a crown and a tiara.”
Register said she was happy to see them have a good time.
“You can’t buy it — to see the smiles on their faces and to see people that you’ve seen through the years in the program and to see those folks thriving and having a good time and enjoying the same things we all enjoy, it does bring great pleasure,” Register said.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.