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  • A Celebration of Differences. By Rachel Kelly.

Night to Shine

Night to Shine

When Ric Hansen received the 72-page pamphlet on how to put on the Night to Shine event from the Tim Tebow Foundation, the first thing he thought he would do without was the karaoke.

“By day I run an entertainment business, and it has taught me to hate karaoke.” But upon calling the Tim Tebow Foundation, Ric changed his mind. Apparently pulling the karaoke would be a huge mistake. Why? Because Night to Shine is all about the spotlight. It is called, after all, Night to Shine.

Night to Shine, a prom-like event held for disabled individuals from age 14 and up (last year’s oldest prom couple were in their 70s), draws attention to differences and celebrates them. Often those differences are what separates disabled communities from the rest of the group, leaving them with an undeserved sense of shame. At Night to Shine, every participant is prom king and queen, and there’s no shame in that!

This year will be its second year running, and it hasn’t come without its obstacles. Last year’s obstacle was snow, which postponed the event for two weeks. The snowfall made it unsafe to hold such a large event. The postponement meant that a whole new set of volunteers needed to be scheduled. Considering there are several hundred volunteers, this was no easy task. Last year the event was hosted by Harbor Christian Center in the Boys and Girls Club. This year the church had moved to a high school, which can’t be rented for events. Hopefully there won’t be issues with snow, as the location has proved to be this year's largest challenge.

Night to Shine hosts 200 participants. Each participant has a buddy who attends to their individual needs throughout the event. Twenty-seven teams survey every aspect of the event, from hair and makeup to relaxation rooms for the parents who take a much-needed break. There’s a red carpet team that crowns kings and queens. There is even a team that oversees bathroom attendants. All in all, there are 400 volunteers. This adds up to 600 people.

It’s obvious why a location would be one of this year’s largest obstacles. Where in Gig Harbor would it be possible to host such a large event? The only building available was the YMCA, who thankfully was just as excited about the event as the volunteers. So, barring inclement weather, Night to Shine 2020 will be held on February 7 at 5pm.

Ric, the organizer of the event, started it last year simply because “It made sense.” Reading about the event, Ric saw Night to Shine as an opportunity to show often unseen members of his community that God’s love goes far beyond the doors of the church. As the owner of an entertainment company, Ric ran across the Tim Tebow Foundation through his daily business activities. Originally, when thinking of Gig Harbor as a host for Night to Shine, Ric thought he would run the event just like any other party; that it would be as simple as getting a DJ and dancing.

After applying and being accepted as a host by the foundation, Ric realized how large the scope of the event really was. His eyes were opened to the variety of needs that often bar disabled individuals from participating. For everyone to truly have a good time, there was a lot to be done! There was food and relaxation for the parents; sensory rooms for the overstimulated; a dance team that would facilitate fun on the floor. There were the easily forgotten needs like bathroom attendants and a buddy system. There were limos, bouquets and shoeshines. There was hair to be done and makeup to perfect. There was food, for volunteers and participants. Most importantly, after all that, it was time to have fun!

By the end of last year's Night to Shine, volunteers attested to how blessed they felt to have been a part of such a life-changing event. Night to Shine is just as fun for the volunteers to be a part of as it was to participate. The whole event was a labor of love that amounted to joy. By tearing down the veil between the disabled and the community, Night to Shine allows for people with special needs to connect to the greater community. To be loved. To be understood. To enjoy the spotlight for a bit. Night to Shine satisfies the basic human need to be seen.

With last year’s eye-opening experience under his belt, Ric Hansen is looking forward to this year’s awesome karaoke. This year there will be a special team of super buddies that are specially trained for more advanced disabilities. This year’s event is especially marked by the incredible outpouring of community support, from local businesses to the return of a large percentage of volunteers. Ric has been blown away by the love Gig Harbor has shown to their disabled community, fostering empathy and community between an often-misunderstood group. Thank you, Gig Harbor, for loving your own. See you at this year’s Night to Shine!

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