Beth Anderson, known affectionately as “Miss Beth,” had been ready for this year’s Night to Shine event for months. She had her dress picked out, and she wore her shawl around the house.
But God had other plans for her, according to her mother, Deborah — Miss Beth died a couple of months before the event she usually attended at Valley View Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.
But the church didn’t forget her and her mother, or the families of the seven other special guests of their Night to Shine events who had died since last year’s event. Night to Shine — an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for people with special needs age 14 and up — is meant to lift up those who need it, and that’s exactly what Valley View Baptist wanted to do, said Amanda Elmore, who organized this year’s event.
“We made eight memorial crowns, put them in boxes with the flowers they would normally get at the event, and then either delivered them ourselves to the parents or had one of their child’s peers deliver them for us,” she said.
Elmore knows Night to Shine is special to the guests who come every year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, she couldn’t even entertain the thought of not keeping the event going.
Valley View Baptist was one of nine churches — including Bethel Baptist, Dora, and Agape Baptist, Scottsboro — that participated in Alabama this year.
Night to Shine usually includes an in-person, prom-style party, but because of the pandemic, the event was shifted to a virtual party held Feb. 12 for special guests from all over the world.
The foundation also encouraged churches to make the event as personal as they could with Shine-Thru, a drive-through event that special guests could attend before the virtual event.
Bethel Baptist Church, Dora, kicked theirs off Feb. 11.
“We did yard decorations and balloons for our guests, then on Friday night, we had nine stations they could drive through at the church,” said Angela Washington, who organized Bethel Baptist’s event.
A big part of Night to Shine is when every guest is crowned a king or queen, so one of the stations offered an in-car crowning. Guests also got gift bags, flowers, T-shirts, photos, a meal box provided by Chick-Fil-A in Gardendale and most of all, lots of personal attention.
“We wanted God’s love to still shine through and show them that they matter and are worth it,” Washington said.
At Agape Baptist, dozens of volunteers came with signs, glow sticks and pom poms to form a “paparazzi line” that guests could parade by in their cars before visiting the stations.
Pastor Ryan Johnson said he would encourage any church to consider participating next year.
“We had people who drove two hours to be a part because they didn’t have a church hosting an event near them,” he said. “This is another way we can fulfill the call to be pro-life — the world needs to see the joy on these folks’ faces, and we need the joy of expressing that agape love to these individuals as a testimony to our community.”
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