15-Year-Old Warren County Girl Orchestrates Prom for Special Needs Teens

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) – There was twinkle in everyone’s eye at Mine Brook Golf club on Saturday, February 9th, and it’s all thanks to 15-year-old Emily Valentino’s desire to bring joy to those in need.

Dozens of special needs teenagers and adults sported their best formal attire as they exited stretch limousines, walked the red carpet, and danced the night away.

The event is called “A Night to Shine” sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, which focused on showing God’s love for thousands of people with special needs at locations around the world.

It’s an event that Valentino heard about and immediately began coordinating with her mother, Lisa Valentino and their local parish, Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary in Hackettstown.

“One of my friends from her church did it and I came home and I told my mom, ‘Mom we have to apply for this,” said Valentino, as she gleamed with pure excitement.

When the big night finally arrived, Valentino said,  “I went in there and I saw everybody dancing. It was a little hectic in the beginning and I was nervous, but I was in tears because they were having such a great time.”

Pop music blasted from the DJ booth, as everyone on the dance floor grooved to the music with no limits. Valentino orchestrated the entire event – which included securing a venue, catering, and entertainment. “We contacted the country club, and they gave us huge discounts on the food and the space. They shut everything down. We went to the DJ and he was like, ‘ of course I’ll do it.’ It’s really been a community effort,” said Valentino.

Stillwater resident and dedicated Aunt, Gina McCabe-Richardson, told WRNJ “A Night to Remember”  gave her beloved-handicapped nephew, Nicky, a chance to dress up and go to a prom for the first time in his life.

“We went to Kohls and he picked out a red jacket. He looks so handsome and we’re just blown away by all of this,” says McCabe-Richardson. “This is the first year for my nephew Nicky. He’s 31 years old and lives in a supported living apartment. Nicky lost both his parents at a young age.”

It’s a chance for Nicky, and many others, to smile, dance, and create life-long friendships – despite the hardships they’ve faced.

McCabe-Richardson says she was overcome with compassion when she discovered the coordinator ‘s age.  “Somebody pointed out the girl running it, and I realized she was the one emailing me back and fourth. I was so touched when I learned she was only 15! It’s heartwarming. I’m in awe.”

When asked about inspiring others her age, Valentino replied, “Go out and do it. My mom always likes to say it takes one person to change the world. This just shows one person, Tim Tebow, started this whole thing and now over 500 churches are doing it and so many lives have been changed because of it.”

Published by: Katie Moriarty