By Kristin Fox
Night to Shine 2023 is back in person. On February 10, 2023, love will once again be in the air as Franklin’s very own Night to Shine 2023 returns as in-person event. Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love for people with special needs aged 14 and older. Young adults will gather Valentine’s weekend from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Moss Valley Venue for Franklin’s 6th annual Night to Shine. This year’s prom theme is “Love is in the Air,” and the Moss barn will be decorated in hot air balloon décor.
Franklin will join over 700 churches from 36 different denominations to celebrate God’s love for people who are often overlooked. It is a night for all to shine and see that they are all loved and accepted. Churches come together to host Night to Shine for approximately 110,000 honored guests with special needs through the support of 215,000 volunteers. Franklin will be joining all 50 states and 34 countries to make an impact that will be felt all over the world as individuals each with their own unique journey will be celebrated.
Franklin’s Night to Shine is hosted by Cartoogechaye Baptist with co-host Discover Church, pending approval from the Tim Tebow Foundation.
“Because of their disabilities, a lot of our guests never had the opportunity to attend a prom,” said Cheryl Richter, Night to Shine Coordinator. “This event is a chance to give them a sense of normalcy and to give them a night of fun that they’ll never forget. It’s also a way to show them how special they truly are, that we love them, but most importantly, that God loves them.”
Each Night to Shine guest will enter this complimentary event on a red carpet complete with a warm welcome from a friendly crowd complete with paparazzi. Once inside, guests receive the royal treatment including shoeshine stations, corsages and boutonnieres, a karaoke room, a catered dinner, prom favors for each honored guest, a respite room for parents and caretakers, prom pictures, music and dancing. Local barbers and stylists will do participants’ hair before the prom.
People with special needs are going to be celebrated, they are going to walk down red carpets, going to be being cheered for, they are going to be loved and they are going to be crowned king and queens. At 8:00 p.m., all participants around the world will be crowned together as king or queen of the prom with a complimentary crown. The evening will be their opportunity to be the king or queen of the prom but it’s not just for one night, it’s a memory they can take with them for the rest of their lives knowing how much they mattered.
All this is made possible by the generosity of the community with donations ranging from dresses and tuxedos to money to help fund the event. Jewelry, shoes, ties, vests, flowers, food, haircuts, limousine rides and much more have been donated from the local community as well as surrounding communities. Participants will be provided with everything they need to make this prom a magical evening at no cost to them and their parents or caretakers.
The current guest list for this year’s prom is 87, but organizers expect that number to increase. Guests can sign up to participate right up to the night of the event, no one will be turned away. Guests are not only from Macon County, but travel from neighboring Cherokee, Swain, and Jackson Counties for the prom. Prom guests also come from Georgia and South Carolina to enjoy Franklin’s Night to Shine.
To make Night to Shine 2023 a success, the event still needs volunteers for many different areas. Volunteers are needed to help with parking, food service, and being a “buddy” for the evening to one of the guests. Volunteers must fill out a registration form, a liability release form, and a background check form.
According to Richter, the current need of Night to Shine is seamstresses. Seamstresses are needed to help with minor alterations at the prom fittings that will be held throughout December and January. The first fitting will be held on Saturday, December 10. If anyone can volunteer to help with alterations, please contact Richter by emailing her at email@example.com or message her on Facebook.
In addition, Franklin’s Night to Shine needs donations to help with the cost of the event. Monetary donations are accepted, and any business, group, or individual is invited to become a local supporter of the prom. There are several levels of supporter available from bronze to platinum, and each supporter is listed on our Facebook Page, mentioned in the media whenever possible, and on a sign displayed at all our events and fundraisers. In addition, Night to Shine accepts clothing donations year-round including prom dresses of all sizes, men’s tuxes and suits, dark dress pants and white dress shirts, ties, shoes (preferably flat or low heels for the women) and accessories.
According to Richter, the response from the community to help with the event has been tremendous with every need to make this prom a success provided. Franklin’s Night to Shine would not be possible without the dedication of community volunteers as well as the generations donations from the community. If anyone is interested in volunteering, make a donation, or receive more information about Night to Shine, please email Richter.
“We are so thankful to all our local supporters without whose generosity we would not be able to put on our 2023 Night to Shine Prom,” said Richter. “These include Wayne & Brenda Moss, Macon Citizens Habilities, the Broyles Family, Bryson Burt Home Loans, Dodge Packaging Specialties, Lloyd Construction Company, On the Verandah, Russell Hawkins (Financial Advisor-Edward Jones), Reach for Bargains, Kathy Smith, and The Gazebo Creekside Cafe. We’ve also been fortunate to have so many great volunteers over the years, and we could have never put on this event without their help.”
The Tim Tebow Foundation has a great passion for people with special needs and in 2014, it launched “Night to Shine.” The vision was simple…work with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience giving these individuals the chance to make specials memories they can cherish for a lifetime. In 2015, the first Night to Shine was held in 44 churches in 26 states and in three countries with 15,000 volunteers coming together to honor 7,000 guests. The event continued to grow over the next few years increasing the number of participants as well as volunteers and spreading to many more states and countries.
In February 2021 and 2022, due to the global circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, Night to Shine was celebrated with “Shine-Thru” (drive-thru Red Carpet event) parade adaptations of Night to Shine and worldwide Virtual Celebration with thousand of people with special needs tuning in for a unique experience complete with a virtual walk down the red carpet, messages from celebrity guests, music, dancing and of course, a crowning ceremony where each guest was crowned a king or queen of the prom.
Following the COVID restrictions but still wanting to somehow celebrate with special guests in Franklin in a personal way, the community had their own version of the “Shine-Thru.” Each guest was driven around the Franklin High School track as local volunteers cheered for them. They were each given special recognition and tokens along the way including flowers, jewelry, and ice cream. They also each received a gift bag at the end which included gifts, a corsage or boutonniere and a tiara or crown.
“We are all looking forward to having an in-person prom in 2023 and celebrating one of the most important groups of people in our community, those with special needs,” said Richter.