Night to Shine casts a beautiful bright light on a prom night for special needs students

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Thanks to a grant from the Tim Tebow Foundation, Laredoans 14 and older who have special needs will enjoy A Night to Shine, a spectacular red carpet prom event on Friday, February 9, at the Barn at Los Patios at 4653 Casa Blanca Road. The event, which is sponsored by the New Life Assembly of God Church, begins at 6 p.m.

Night to Shine is a simultaneous prom gala sponsored by over 550 churches in 16 countries on six continents, and staffed by 175,000 volunteers who will crown 90,000 kings and queens. It is anticipated that Night to Shine events will take place across the 50 American states.

Organizers of Laredo’s Night to Shine — including Pastor Tony D. and Cecy Gutierrez of New Life Assembly of God Church, Diana Sanchez, and District V Council member Nelly Vielma — are working quickly to ensure the success of the February 9 prom by signing up in-kind and cash sponsors for refreshments and food, karaoke equipment, music, a live deejay, a professional photographer, prom favors, a flower station, and hair and makeup stations. The Tebow Foundation has provided a backdrop for the Night to Shine prom in Laredo.

Sanchez said early efforts to raise funds have met with generous returns, notably U.S. Customs House broker J.O. Alvarez, who donated $1,500. Other sponsors as of this writing include HEB, Walmart, Target on Bob Bullock Loop, Rotary Under Seven Flags, Chick-fil-A on Monarch Drive, Cream Magazine, Laredo Lifeline, LLC, Melecio Villarreal and Mike De La Fuente, Roxanne Peña of Lot 31 Studios, and Roel’s Images.

Sanchez, a member of the City of Laredo’s People with Disabilities Blue Ribbon Commission, said she anticipates about 100 prom participants and about 150 volunteers. “Registration is in advance and due by Wednesday, February 7. We want to have a perfect event, so we want an accurate head count,” she said, adding that Night to Shine in Laredo is open to individuals from Zapata, San Ygnacio, Hebbronville, El Cenizo, Del Río, Eagle Pass, and surrounding areas. All prom attendees will have a one-to-one chaperone.

For further information and to register, call Patricia García at (817) 891-8272 or write Cecy Gutierrez can be reached at 956-337-3479 or Diana Sanchez can be reached at (956) 693-3921.

Collaborators include Downs Moms of Laredo, Guerra Communications,

Goodwill Industries, Laredo Police Department, Giocasa Foundation, Laredo Down Syndrome Association of Laredo, Mercy Kids, Border Region Behavioral Health Center, Families for Autism support, Driscoll Health Plans, Laredo Community College, Partners Resource Support, Ahora y Siempre Laredo-Del Rio, My Sunny Gardens, Templo Miserdicordia, and Valley Association for Independent Living.

A planning committee for Night to Shine met Saturday, February 3, to formulate strategies for fundraising and to establish areas of responsibility. The meeting allowed, too, the sharing of compassionate and heartfelt stories of parents of special needs children.

Cecy Gutierrez offered this observation on what will make Laredo’s Night to Shine a success, the idea that the community will come together to raise awareness through a synergy of shared skills and gifts. She added, “Today I walk, but tomorrow I might not. We have a responsibility to change lives and how everyone sees people with disabilities. We can.”

Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner, a former professional quarterback, and now an outfielder for the New York Mets, established the Tim Tebow Foundation in 2010 to “serve children and share God’s love…by fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.”

Tebow refers to Night to Shine as, “my favorite night of the year, a night that changes so many lives.” He has told participants that they have been crowned kings and queens of the proms “because this is how God sees you.”

Rascal Flatts has written a song called “Night to Shine.” YouTube provides footage of Night to Shine events across the U.S. as well as in Haiti, Kenya, New Zealand, Canada, Philippines, Ecuador, Peru, Albania, Uganda, and South Africa.

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