17 April, 2024

Hundreds of Guests Blessed at Ohio Church’s ‘Night to Shine’

by | 21 February, 2024 | 0 comments

By Dale Reeves

When glowing about the “Night to Shine” event that our church hosts every year in partnership with the Tim Tebow Foundation, I often tell people, “After Christmas Eve, this is my second favorite night of the year!”  

The prom for people with special needs in the community, and their parents and caregivers, is like a taste of Heaven to me, except that in Heaven all the kings and queens that we celebrate every year will be physically and mentally whole. 

TIM AND DEMI TEBOW

This was the 10th year that Christ’s Church in Mason, Ohio, has held this event, and our gala on Feb. 9 was the most festive yet. Former Heisman Trophy winner and Florida Gator quarterback Tim Tebow and his lovely wife, Demi, made a special trip to thank us for hosting this event for all 10 years. We are one of only 12 churches who have hosted this incredible night every year since the Tebow ministry’s first “Night to Shine.” Here’s a clip in which Tim Tebow talks about this great occasion. 

In 2024, “Night to Shine” events were hosted by 725 amazing churches on 6 continents, in 56 countries, and in all 50 states. 

“Night to Shine is a time where the honored guests don’t just hear they are loved, but they get to experience God’s love,” Tebow said. “Our hope is that as they walked down the red carpet, or were crowned King or Queen, that they experienced the love of all the people cheering for them, they experienced the love of Jesus, and walked away knowing full well in their heart they are loved.” 

At this year’s Night to Shine, Christ’s Church at Mason hosted 390 guests with special needs who were treated to a prom-like event, and 225 parents and caregivers who were treated to a “VIP experience” elsewhere in our building. We enlisted 505 volunteers who served in various capacities. 

Jesus instructed us, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13-14, English Standard Version). 

The apostle Paul challenged us to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). 

That’s why we have such passion for “Night to Shine” at Christ’s Church. 

LOVING THE VIPs 

Dave and Jill Buffenbarger spearheaded the planning and execution of our Night to Shine this year. They led training events for our volunteers, several of whom are not from our church, but who live in our community, and some of whom are high school students. We had more than 300 folks attend one of four training sessions. Jill works as a nursing supervisor and leader at Warren County Educational Service Center and she has a heart for loving folks with special needs. Dave has served as an elder at our church for many years. 

“We want all of our guests to know that they are Very Important People—VIPs!” Dave Buffenbarger said. “The idea that we can serve people and develop a desire to serve others more is the best possible outcome to grow the outreach of our church.  

“There are a lot of partnerships that are necessary to make this event possible . . . an incredible core team who has been working behind the scenes for months,” he said. Some of those sponsors included Chick-fil-A (“who has been with us since the beginning”), financial sponsors, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Carabba’s Italian Grill, Costco, flower services, massage therapists (for VIP caregivers) . . . “too many to name!” 

“I love this event because our building was full of people from many different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds,” said Christ’s Church executive pastor Alan Baumlein, who has been involved with Night to Shine since the beginning. “I think it’s a brief glimpse into what Heaven will look like.  

“I enjoy interacting with the parents and caregivers, and this year I noticed how this ministry is reaching far and wide into our community,” he continued. “I had conversations with Muslim, Hindu, and alternative lifestyle families this year. One mom gave me a big hug and said, ‘Honey, I am so thankful that this church provides this night for my son. He looks forward to it every year.’ Another parent said to me, ‘Please don’t ever stop this night. We love it!’” 

Parents and caregivers truly appreciated the special attention they received, Baumlein said. 

“They give and give and give, so I am thrilled that we can provide them with a great meal, massages, hair and nail stylists, and a place where community can take place. I watched as three random families, who didn’t know each other before this night, connected and discussed real issues as they shared with each other and encouraged each other. Priceless!” 

TIM TEBOW AND A GUEST AT “NIGHT TO SHINE” IN MASON

A SURPRISE VISIT 

This year, Christ’s Church enjoyed a pre-prom party in which Tim Tebow, his wife, and several folks from his ministry visited our church to thank us for 10 years of hosting Night to Shine.  

When Tebow arrived, some of our volunteers encouraged him to walk down the red carpet, but he graciously declined. 

STORY EDITOR DALE REEVES AND A GUEST

“The red carpet is for our VIPs, not me!”  

Tebow walked into our auditorium to check out the decorations for the party, but as soon as some of our special guests arrived in wheelchairs and started rolling down the red carpet, the Tebows made a beeline for them. As we stood and clapped for each of them, Tim knelt down to hug each one, tell them how beautiful they are, and how much God (and we) love them. 

A highlight for me was when I grabbed the handles of a guest’s wheelchair and pushed the young man around in circles while upbeat music played in our auditorium. I invited Tim to join in our conga line, and he lined up right behind another one of our guests, and the line continued to grow behind him.  

I’ve always been a Tim Tebow fan because of his tremendous witness for Christ on and off the football field, but my appreciation for his humility, character, and passion went to a deeper level that day. Night to Shine and its founder truly exemplify the words of Jesus, as we “Shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16, New Living Translation). 

“Tim Tebow and his team members told us that they loved the way we are doing this event every year, and [they] could use some of our ideas at other Night to Shine proms,” Dave Buffenbarger said. “We heard so many ‘thank-yous’ from guests, parents, and caregivers that I lost count.  

“Seeing the happiness on the faces of the guests, their parents, and our volunteers gets me a little emotional because . . . this is exactly who Jesus calls us to be.” 

Dale Reeves is the story pastor at Christ’s Church, Mason, Ohio, where he leads a writing team, blogs weekly, and is on the teaching team. 

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