YOU cannot simply call it a special night. It was beyond special. Night to Shine 2019 was a celebration of love and God's love for people with special needs.
On February 9, the Grand Pilipinas Ballroom of the Grand Regal Hotel was filled with love and joy coming from the volunteers and participants of the annual prom event by the Tim Tebow Foundation and hosted by the Tebow Cure Hospital.
With some 500 participants and volunteers from different walks of life, the event has come a long way since it was started in Davao City in 2016.
Night to Shine 2019 Event Manager Ella Marielle Abadesco said is for kids with special needs and including those who were treated by the hospital.
"It is not just a prom event but also a celebration of God's love for kids with special needs," she said.
Abadesco said during the event the beneficiaries will receive a royal treatment. The hair and make-up will be covered by the organizers while their prom dresses and clothes will be coming from Seeds of Dignity. A delicious meal is also prepared for the participants and volunteers.
The participants, escorted by their respective partners or buddies, will walk down the red carpet before they enter the Grand Ball Room. They will also be greeted by volunteers and photographers.
"We want to make them feel special. For most of our guests, it will be their time to experience a prom event," Abadesco said.
Former American football quarterback Tim Tebow delivered a short yet inspiring video message that signaled the crowning ceremony, one of the main highlights of the Night to Shine.
"It is my honor right now to crown every single one of you as the kings and queens of the prom," he said.
Tebow, who is currently a professional baseball outfielder in the New York Mets, added, "Even better than that, I believe that's how the God of this universe sees you every single day of your life. That's how much you matter, that's how much you are loved. All of this is for you because we love, because we care about you."
It was a magical and heartwarming moment after the buddies placed the crowns on the participants. The ballroom was lit up with a different kinds of light coming from children and individuals with special needs when their crowns or tiaras were placed on them.
Their faces were glowing with happiness. Their eyes bright with joy. The room broke into cheers and applauses. Love and happiness were not only coming from the participants but also from the volunteers, some of whom were already tearing up out of joy.
A dance capped off the night with the buddies energizing the dancefloor. The children with special needs were more than happy to join as they danced and mingled with one another.
Kim Laniba, a teenager with Down Syndrome, said what he enjoyed most about Night to Shine was being able to dance on the dancefloor.
Likewise, Aldrin Aliman, 12, also said he really enjoyed the whole event especially the dancing part. Aldrin, who used to walk with backward knees, was treated by the Tebow Cure Hospital.
"Sadya gid siya (He was really having fun)," Claire Joy Aliman, Aldrin's mom, said.
Duke Abadesco, Aldrin's buddy, said the whole experience was enjoyable and unforgettable.
"The best experience for me was being able to share God's love to them, reaching out to them, and making them feel very special," Duke said.
Linda Vergara, Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Inc. Davao chapter manager, said Night to Shine really made a big difference to the teenagers with Down syndrome.
She said the teens do not always get to experience socializations like this.
"Makita jud nimo ang glow sa ilahang faces (You can see the glow on their faces), they feel elated, treasured, and important," Vergara said.
"It's all about you. The celebrations, the red carpet, the applause, it's all for you. It's because we love you, it's because you matter, it's because God has a great plan for your life," Tebow said.