News & Media

Celebrating the love that’s at the heart of Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine

02/14/2017 Lancaster Online By The LNP Editorial Board

Valentine’s Day gets a mixed reception every year.

Some people look forward to the midwinter romance of it all, the splashes of red and pink in a bleak, wintry landscape. Others see it as a silly and annoying contrivance, a day to endure other people’s lavish displays of love and commerce, American-style.

Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback and unabashed Christian Tim Tebow had another vision for Feb. 14.

“Tim’s whole thing is he wants Valentine’s Day looked at differently so that people think of others instead of themselves,” Joell Ketcham, coordinator of the local Night to Shine, told LNP.

So Tebow’s foundation launched Night to Shine events, which generally are held the Friday before Valentine’s Day. As Tebow — who seems to be a genuinely good guy — notes on the event’s website, his foundation’s initiatives seek to “show God’s love” to those who need it. And Night to Shine is meant to celebrate people with special needs.

“Tim really wants them to know that they are precious in God’s eyes,” Ketcham said.

Plenty of volunteers are needed to pull off a Night to Shine event. At the Lancaster event, there was a salon area so the guests could get their nails and hair done, and their shoes shined. A photo booth and karaoke were among the evening’s activities, along with a special dinner and dancing.

All of the guests were paired with a buddy to guide them through the evening.

And each guest was given a crown or tiara and a sash that said “prom king” or “prom queen.”

“We want them to know that they are a princess, they are a king. They’re valued. That’s the whole purpose,” Ketcham said. “This gives them a night to be so important and just be valued by everyone.”

People with special needs should be valued, should be made to feel important, every day. But the reality is, they’re sometimes relegated to the sidelines of life. That’s both their loss and ours.

So we laud those who made a Night to Shine so special for its guests. You can see in the faces photographed by LNP the sheer joy of those who attended.

Josh Doughey was among the guests who walked the red carpet. Doughey, 25, a resident of Leola, said he was “looking forward to being royal with my royal friends.”

Emily Aicoleo, 20, pronounced her buddy for the evening, Hannah Raezer, “a cool person.”

“I want to give her the most magical night ever,” said Raezer, a 19-year-old student of early childhood education and special education at Lebanon Valley College.

It doesn’t take magic to make another person feel special on Valentine’s Day. It takes compassion and thoughtfulness (qualities we’re guessing Raezer has in abundance). And it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to make someone feel special.

Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 holds an annual prom for its secondary students in special education classes. Like a Night to Shine, the IU13 prom relies on volunteers — staff members, parents, community members — to help with hair and makeup, donate gowns and tuxedos, and chaperone.

We are cheered by their generosity, and by Ketcham, who was inspired to bring a Night to Shine to Lancaster after taking her son, Kenny Wiederrecht, 23, to the event an hour and a half away last year.

A parent of a special needs child feels it keenly when her child, the heart of her heart, misses out on the sort of school event — a dance, for instance — others take for granted.

We’re sure Ketcham’s determination to bring a Night to Shine here brought joy not only to the event’s guests but to their parents and family members.

The kind of love that made the Night to Shine happen is worth celebrating on any day, in any season.

Read More