Night to Shine ‘a blessing’ for communityFebruary 11, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
JASPER — Ali Bromm walked a long runway lined with adoring people who were clapping and cheering for her Friday night at Redemption Christian Church.
“I love your dress,” someone called out to her.
“I love your hair,” another said.
“You look so beautiful!”
Ali blushed each time, leaning a little closer to her best friend, Kelby LaRoche, who was her buddy escort for the evening.
See a Night to Shine photo gallery here.
The girls were heading into the festivities known as the Night To Shine, an annual prom experience sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. This is the fourth year Redemption has held the event.
Ali knew she wanted Kelby to be her buddy for the night. The two have been friends since preschool. They go to school together and hang out. “Go to parties,” Ali said. “Yeah.”
They spent Friday together getting ready for the event. A stylist did Ali’s hair at the church. Ali added glitter to Kelby’s hair. “We got dressed here, I got to crown Ali, and we ate a really good supper,” Kelby mentioned.
And they were having a ball.
“It’s awesome, fun,” Ali said.
Close to the middle of the runway, Ali saw her family: parents Dean and Elaine and brothers Nathan and Carson; Nathan came home from college to be there. Elaine had the girls pause while they took photos, both girls beaming. As they passed, Elaine wiped a few tears from her eyes.
“When Ali was born, she had a lot of health issues, and was really sick when she was little,” Elaine said. “We didn’t know she was going to have [Down] syndrome; we didn’t know she was going to have heart issues. For the first six months, we were fighting to keep her alive.
“So to see her where she’s at now is so amazing,” she said.
More than 200 guests participated in Night to Shine. Each had a buddy who stayed with them the whole night. Each participant was brought on stage and crowned queen or king by their buddy. There were lots of cheers and tears from the new royalty and their family members.
For the night, hundreds of other volunteers pampered the kings and queens. While they celebrated on the first floor, their family members and caretakers could stay in the excitement with them or go upstairs, where a meal awaited them.
Night to Shine is held on the same night at churches across the U.S., and in some other countries. The Tim Tebow Foundation gives churches a grant to hold the event. Redemption received one for the first year.
“It was our goal after the first year to be self-supportive so they can use that money to help other churches,” said Ryan Stiles, minister of Redemption’s Jasper campus. “We were able to achieve that the last three years through community help and donations, and church giving. It is still sponsored by Tim Tebow Foundation. But we don’t use any of their money anymore.”
Redemption decided to apply for the event four years ago after Senior Minister Darrel Land and his wife, Holli, heard about it from others while attending a conference.
“Night to Shine has been a blessing to our church family,” said Holli, one of the organizers of Redemption’s event. “Four years ago we were so excited to host this event and honor so many special guests. While I know it was a magical evening for them, they blessed us far more than we ever expected.”
Seeing the happy kings and queens makes the whole event even more special.
“You see the smiles on their faces, and you’re so filled with emotion,” Stiles said. “I cry a few times every Night To Shine night. It’s overwhelming emotionally.”
“A participant’s mom shared this with me,” Holli said. “‘My daughter has other siblings and she sees them active in their lives and she gets to share in all their special moments, but on the way to Night to Shine, I know I’m different mom, but tonight is my special moment.’”
This is the first time Ali, who is a freshman at Southridge High School, has attended Night to Shine. “We wanted to wait until she was in high school for her to sign her up,” Elaine said.
Night to Shine gave Ali some experience that she could use for the following night. Southridge’s freshman class voted for Ali to represent their class at homecoming, which was Saturday night.
“I’m going to homecoming,” Ali said, smiling.
The church is looking forward to hosting the prom again next year. Organizers will start working on those details next month.
“It is a lot of work. And it takes a lot of people to coordinate,” Holli said. “But it is very much worth it.”
“It’s truly their night,” Stiles said. “It’s 200 people that are just having a blast. And they love right back on you. It’s the best."
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