By Steve Sears
“Everything went really, really well. Everyone had a good time. There was a lot of people there, we had a good turnout, and it was really good,” says Emily Valentino, a junior at Newton High School and organizer of the event.
“Night to Shine” is a national, Tim Tebow-initiated organization event (www.timtebowfoundation.org/ministries/night-to-shine) that, from the website, “is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older,” that Valentino learned of two years ago.
One of her prime reasons for interest was her friendship with Lily Doyle, whom she has known since childhood. Doyle has Down Syndrome. “When I found out about ‘Night to Shine’, I texted her and she was going to the event (at her church).” Valentino and her mom, Lisa, then decided to look and see if they could host somewhere a ‘Night to Shine’ of their own. The two applied to their church,
Church of the Assumption in Hackettstown, for a grant and received it, and hosted their initial prom in 2018.
Per Valentino, there were 700 proms held this year worldwide.
Planning is very involved but was harder the initial time around. “It is a lot of work, but I always have a lot of help,” says Valentino. “You have to make sure people know about the event – guests from ages 14 to 100+ can register and come to the event – you have to get volunteers and this year we had 150 volunteers and 120 guests, so even trying to get all those people is a lot of work.” Valentino also mentions that the prom costs a lot more than the grant ceiling, so fundraisers had to be held. “We also have to get vendors, a DJ, limousine rides. Even though it’s a lot of work, I have help the night of and its always worth it to see the guests enjoy it, the volunteers enjoy it, and getting emails and responses from all the people who were touched by the event and touched by God’s love.”
Valentino is already planning for the 2020 event, fielding comments regarding what specifically was enjoyed and other things that can be done to improve next years event. “I’ve started taking notes now in preparation for next year.”
A nice note is that this year, instead of attending the event, Doyle volunteered, working the Beauty Bar and putting make-up on guests. “She is immensely proud of me,” says Valentino happily, “and having her there at the event and having her support me through it was even more worth it.”