CHIPLEY - First Baptist Church Chipley and a group of volunteers are working with the Tim Tebow Foundation to bring "Night to Shine" to Washington County for the first time.
The global event is set to take place from 6-9 p.m. Feb. 9, with First Baptist Church joining hundreds around the world in hosting a prom night experience for individuals with developmental disabilities, ages "14 to 100."
Tim Tebow Foundation Executive Director Erik Dellenback states the event is "centered on God's love."
"Night to Shine is a night of lights, music limos, and dancing, and best of all, each honored guest being crowned a king or queen of the prom," said Dellenback.
"We continue to be amazed by how God has grown this event into a worldwide movement, celebrating people with special needs. Though the statistics are incredible, this is not about the numbers. Above everything else, our goal is to share God’s love with people with special needs while giving Him all the glory."
The idea to host an event here came after FBC church member and special needs advocate Robin Pemberton was unable to find an event in surrounding counties that had room for her son to participate last year.
"Events in Bay and Jackson County were full, and it broke my heart that the clients at the Holmes and Washington ARC Center were unable to attend this great night," said Pemberton.
Pemberton soon approached FBC Chipley Pastor Michael Orr with the idea of hosting a local Night to Shine event at the church.
"The pastor said the exact same thing had been on his heart and mind. He gave his support," said Pemberton.
FBC soon applied to serve as a host and was among those selected by the Foundation.
"We were thrilled to be chosen to host this event," said Pemberton. "It's an honor for Chipley."
"Those with developmental disabilities are a forgotten population. Tim Tebow and his foundation have a heart for those with special needs, and he felt like offering this special night where they are treated like kings and queens," she added.
"These individuals can often fee unwanted or unloved," she added. "If we can just bring them here and make them feel loved for that one night, what a difference it can make. And perhaps many will even return for church, and we can show them that love in person throughout the year."
Each year, Tebow himself selects an event or two at which to make a surprise personal appearance. While Pemberton says she knows chances are slim the Heisman Trophy winner and noted philanthropist will show up in Chipley, "one can always hope."
But with or without the presence of the sports star, Pemberton says the community's local stars are sure to shine brightly.
Each guest will enter the event on a red carpet and will then be treated to the "royal treatment" with hair and makeup stations, shoe shining stations, limousine rides, corsages, and boutonnieres, music, dancing, and activity stations.
The highlight of the night comes when each guest is crowned King or Queen of the prom.
Participants' special dietary needs will be considered in the refreshment planning, and a medical station and medical personnel will be on hand.
A respite area will also be available for parents and caregivers who would like to stay with their loved ones during the event.
"We will be able to treat the caregivers and let them enjoy the event as well," said Pemberton. "It is a great opportunity for them to get to know and support each other."
The event is free and open to participants from Holmes, Washington and surrounding areas with the capacity to serve 100 plus individuals with developmental disabilities in the community.
"Don't wait to register your loved ones, as slots are filling quickly," advises Pemberton.
Each participant will have a "buddy" who will stay with them throughout the event and share the excitement of the evening. Each volunteer buddy must be 16 or older, and all volunteers will attend a training before the event.
Pemberton says with the event just a little over a month away, there is still much to be done, and volunteers are still needed to fill slots such as buddies, registration, and more.
Tax-deductible donations are still being accepted as well. Checks can be made to First Baptist Church with "Night to Shine" noted on the memo.
To register a participant, or to volunteer, click on the "Night to Shine" link at the FBC website: firstbaptistchipley.com
For more information about this event, call FBC Chipley at 850-638-1830.