An hour to shine

Photos by Kylie Schepers/The Herald
Adam Nordhoff of Jasper waves to the volunteers at the Shine-Thru event at Redemption Christian Church in Jasper on Friday. Due to COVID-19, the annual Night to Shine, a prom-like experience for people with special needs, couldn't happen. The church instead hosted Shine-Thru, where participants and their families drove through the church parking lot and celebrated from inside their cars.

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — Night to Shine is a tradition many in Dubois County have come to look forward to for over half a decade now.

Hosted by Redemption Christian Church in Jasper, Night to Shine is a prom-like experience for people with special needs funded by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The church has hosted the annual event since the second year after it was created, Senior Minister Darrel Land said. Back then, only a few dozen churches across the country participated. Last year, more than 700 churches from all 50 states and 34 countries participated.

The night typically involves activities such as limousine rides, dinner, dancing, karaoke and photo booths. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year looked different.

See a gallery of photos here

Nearly 100 volunteers lined up in the brutal cold Friday night for a Shine-Thru, where participants and their families drove through the Redemption parking lot and celebrated from inside their cars.

“That way, the participants can still get out of the house and still feel like kings and queens,” Jasper Campus Minister Ryan Stiles told The Herald in the weeks leading up to the event. “Each year, this is the most fun and the most heartwarming thing we do.”

Usually, the celebrations last all night. But because the fun was taken into the 25-degree cold this year, it had to be crammed into one hour.

Volunteers wave at a participants during the Shine-Thru event at Redemption Christian Church in Jasper on Friday.

5 p.m.

Volunteers are bundled up in coats, hats, gloves, boots and face masks, waiting anxiously as the first car approaches. “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus blasts from a stereo. Stiles raises his arms up, as to tell everyone to make some noise.

One man holds a sign that reads “You’re a star” while a little girl a little further down the line holds a sign that reads “You are cool!” Others hold gold stars and teal and black balloons. A drone hovers above the crowd.

The first family pulls up as volunteers cheer and wave. Several volunteers approach the car to say hello and take a picture of the participant, a young man in the back seat bobbing his head to the music.

“It still gives you chills,” one woman says. “It still makes you want to cry.”

5:15 p.m.

Cars creep through the roaring man-made tunnel, some stopping to greet volunteers they know. Some participants are dressed in more comfortable clothes while others are dressed to the nines, such as a young woman in a teal prom dress delicately donned with gemstones.

Some volunteers, such as a little boy in a puffy green dinosaur coat, are getting tired  it is freezing, after all. Some are doing the cold shuffle, bobbing up and down to keep their bodies warm. “If you jump, you might feel warmer,” one woman says. Some are unfazed by the cold, too excited to notice.

A young man in a suit leans out the back window of his family’s car and throws up the “rock on” symbol, dancing in his seat to “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna.

Another car pulls up with a woman in the backseat fit to be a princess.

“You look so pretty in your crown!” a volunteer calls out to her.

Audra Levy of Jasper waits for participants to drive through the Shine-Thru event at Redemption Christian Church in Jasper on Friday.

5:30 p.m.

A navy blue Dodge Grand Caravan decked out in balloons and a black poster that reads “Night to Shine Thru” pulls up and stops under the awning. The back door slides open, revealing a smiling young man. The volunteers around him scream as if a rockstar just walked onstage.

A few minutes later, a dozen or so people dart inside to warm up while there’s a lull in cars.

5:45 p.m.

“Come back out here!” Someone calls to a group huddled inside. “There’s a bus!”

A white minibus pulls up as nearly everyone runs back to their places to cheer and wave.

Some volunteers visibly get a second wind and start dancing to “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex and “Y.M.C.A.” by Village People. A group of kids try to skate on the slick sidewalk off to the side.

The playlist restarts, and a man scream-sings along to “Party in the U.S.A.” to a group of friends.

6 p.m.

All the cars are through the Shine-Thru as volunteers begin to wander into the warm indoors. A few gift bags that were given to each participant are left over, but not many.

“I think it was a great turnout, considering the cold,” coordinator Holli Land says. “I think everyone had a good time. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t have our usual celebration, but what else can you do?"

Stiles says he wants next year’s celebration to be bigger and better than ever before.




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