CHESTER, Md. – Paige Bailey is very excited for a special prom next Friday, Feb. 9, more so than she was when she attended the prom at Kent Island High School last year.
“She realizes this one is really special,” said her mother, Bridgitte Bailey. “Most of her classmates have not been to [the high school] prom but will be at this one.”
Paige and her classmates are in classes for students with special needs. The Feb. 9 promlike event is called “Night to Shine,” sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, which strives to “bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” Night to Shine aims to be “an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love,” according to the foundation’s website.
St. Christopher Church will host the Kent Island Night to Shine, one of three churches – and the only Catholic church – to sponsor the program on the Delmarva Peninsula. The foundation reports that more than 540 churches worldwide will host Night to Shine this year.
Paige and her classmates aren’t the only ones excited about the night that will spotlight them. More than 150 people, about evenly divided among fellow students and adults, have volunteered to assist, said Bridgitte Bailey, director of electronic communications and office support at St. Christopher.
“We’ve never had that many volunteers sign up for anything,” she said.
One of those volunteers, Kent Island High senior Caroline Marr, said the excitement about Night to Shine among her Unified Sports teammates with special needs made her want to participate.
Her teammates “were so excited about it, I thought it would be great to be there. It’s going to be such a special experience for them.” She thinks her presence will help some of her teammates, who will see a face they recognize among the throngs of volunteers.
Unified Sports combines students with special needs with other students on the same team. Caroline had played soccer and lacrosse until injuring her knee, then turned to the Unified Sports program last year. She participates in tennis, strength and conditioning, and bocce ball.
Being around people with special needs is nothing new for Caroline. A cousin has autism, and “I’ve been around him my whole life.”
Bailey expects 75 or more students 14 and older with special needs will attend. She has notifie
d schools and various other organizations in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne and Talbot counties, inviting those with special needs to attend.
Each will be matched one-on-one with a student volunteer. They will be together for activities such as limo rides; red carpet arrival back at the parish; hair, make-up and shoe shine stations; photographs; dinner, and dancing and karaoke. The night will culminate with a crowning ceremony and a video message from Tebow.
St. Christopher became involved after a friend in Florida told Bridgitte Bailey about it, thinking Paige would enjoy it. Paige is “developmentally disabled – that’s the label that they bestowed on her,” Bridgitte Bailey said.
“I knew nothing like this was being held in our area,” she said. She suggested it to Maryalice Davis, pastoral associate at St. Christopher, who said the parish should apply. Father Paul Campbell, pastor, concurred.
St. Christopher not only was selected to be a Night to Shine host, but also received a maximum, first-year host grant of $8,500 from the Tim Tebow Foundation to offset expenses for first-year hosts. The Florida-based foundation was organized by Tebow, a former University of Florida quarterback who had a short career in the National Football League.
Caroline sounds excited again as she anticipates Night to Shine from a volunteer’s viewpoint.
“It’s going to be such a special experience for them. I thought it would be great to experience it with them.”