HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) –
Break out your corsage and put on your dancing shoes because the third annual “Night
to Shine,” a prom for people with special needs, will be kicking off at 6 p.m.
Friday night at Centenary University.
The event was created by former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow. However, in Hackettstown it all began three years ago with (now) 17-year-old Emily Valentino.
“It all started when I saw Night to Shine on social media. I thought it looked so cool. Never did I think that it would continue on to this big event and have over 300 people,” said Valentino.
Since she’ll be attending college next fall, this year will be Valentino’s last time coordinating Night to Shine. The high school senior says she has been working side-by-side with Saint Luke’s Catholic Church and their special needs ministry, who will continue the event in the future.
It’s the first time many of the attendees will experience going to the prom. In addition to getting dressed up, they are able to walk down a red carpet, enjoy lots of food, dancing, and even a limo ride.
“It always warms my heart to see smiles on all the guests and all the volunteers’ faces,” Valentino explained. “At a time in our world where everyone seems so divided, you come to this night and all you feel is love.”
Community engagement coordinator at Centenary University, Rachel Danitz, said that this will be the first year Centenary will be officially partnering with the Tim Tebow Foundation and Saint Luke’s Catholic Church’s Special Needs Ministry.
“We are so excited. I know we have 130 confirmed guests and will probably have a few more in the coming days. So it’s going to be big!” Danitz said.
The Tim Tebow Foundation focuses on showing God’s love for thousands of people with special needs at locations around the world. Over 100,000 honored guests are expected to participate in Night to Shine on a global scale.
As for Valentino, she said Night to Shine has played a big factor in her future. “I’m going to college for special education,” explained Valentino. “My big goal in life is to own a theater for people with special needs…I just want to give back to this community that has taught me so much, and changed my life forever.”
Again, Night to Shine will take place tomorrow at Centenary University’s David and Carol Lackland Center at 6 p.m. Admission is free for all guests.