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Manassas church hosts ‘Night to Shine’ for people with special needs

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Guests arriving at the Night to Shine Feb. 9 were greeted by a cheering crowd lining a red carpet. As they came inside the hall at All Saints Church in Manassas, each was given a white rose boutonniere or corsage. Young men had their shoes shined while ladies had their makeup and hair touched up by volunteers. Limousines offered guests a spin around the parking lot. And that was all before the dancing began.

Night to Shine, a dinner dance for teens and adults with special needs, was created by Tim Tebow, a former NFL quarterback, and continues to be sponsored by his foundation. This year, 90,000 guests attended Night to Shine events at 537 churches around the world. The All Saints dance drew 95 guests, more than 100 parents and family members, and 175 volunteers, who helped with parking, served as buddies for the guests, ran registration and helped with  cleanup and setup.


“So many generous people wanted to be a part of this,” said Mary Jo Smith, who along with her daughter Danielle organized the first Night to Shine event at All Saints — one of the few Night to Shine dances held in Northern Virginia.  “Our deejay, Michael Wittlinger, is a friend who came out of deejay retirement to deejay for free. All of our videographers and photographers were volunteers who take pictures for different school or church functions,” she said.  Business such as Chik-fil-A and Choice Limousine Service offered hefty discounts.

“Those volunteers received as much joy as the guests did,” said Smith. “Guests were so appreciative. Parents said they hadn’t seen their kids have this much fun in a long time. Volunteers couldn't wait to do it again.” 

After this year’s success, Smith hopes other Catholic churches will host a Night to Shine in 2019. “We were counting on God’s guidance and we got it,” she said. 

Longtime friends Erin Jones and Heidi Thorpe, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge, brought their sons Brien Jones, 16, and Michael Thorpe Jr., 20, to the dance. Michael, sporting a classic black tuxedo, posed for pictures with Brien, who wore a tweed jacket, a salmon shirt and a flame and black pocket square. Later, they had a dance-off. All evening the dance floor was filled with guests and buddies doing the wave or the chicken dance, or simply singing along to familiar pop songs. 

Both mothers enjoyed seeing others families from the special needs community and watching their sons enjoy themselves. “Michael is a social butterfly and he loves to dance,” said Thorpe. “It’s so great that Tim Tebow started this.”

“This is like the Grammys,” said Jones. “When we told Brien there was going to be a red carpet, he said he was going to own it.” 

Jodi Vallimont, a graduate of Seton School in Manassas who now attends James Madison University in Harrisonburg, came home for the weekend to volunteer at the dance. “I came to help everyone have some fun, to celebrate who they are and make them feel like princesses and princes for a night.”

Toward the end of the evening, each guest was given a crown or tiara to wear. As the dancing ended, one older guest got on stage, asked the deejay for the microphone and proposed to his girlfriend. After she accepted the ring, he yelled to the crowd, “Everyone is invited to the wedding!”

Buy photos from Night to Shine at catholicherald.smugmug.com/Night-to-Shine-2018 .

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018