The evening of Feb. 10 promises to be an unforgettable one for the clients of Elevation Truckee as they walk the red carpet during their Night to Shine. Made possible by a grant from the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is an annual gala taking place around the world that presents developmentally disabled adults the opportunity to experience the fanfare of their very own prom night.
“Several of my clients here, they’re always asking for us to throw a dance. So, this year, I went on the website of Night to Shine and I was honestly just looking for someone local that was maybe going to throw one, and I just really felt in my heart, we need to throw one!” Elevation Truckee Program Director Marliese Bankert told Moonshine Ink. “So, I applied for it and they selected us right away.”
Before applying, Bankert reached out to the folks at Sierra Bible Church, who have extended no shortage of generosity to her clients throughout the years. Since Night to Shine is always held in a church, she thought Sierra Bible Church would perhaps be willing to host the event. She was right, and excitement has been building ever since.
While the Tim Tebow Foundation supplies a kit with things like banners and signs to help get the party started, each organization that receives a grant has the opportunity to tailor its Night to Shine to its own desire.
“We wanted the theme to be Winter Wonderland because we want our Night to Shine to stand out, to be very Tahoe/Truckee,” Bankert said. “We’re going to do a lot of twinkling lights and trees and snowflakes.” There’s even an old ski lift chair for which Elevation Truckee’s neighbor, GLA Morris Construction, is going to build a stand so it can be used as a photo prop.
Elevation’s clients are also playing an integral role in the event planning, having a say in everything from what kind of food and music there will be to helping make decorations and hang posters advertising the big night.
“We’re in business to have them make choices and do things their way instead of our way,” Bankert said. “This is their program, and this is their dance; they’re hosting it. So, it’s really exciting.”
Each of the participants is looking forward to something different. Forrest Dresslar says it’s “being with my friends,” while others are excited to dance and even work with the DJ. Teddy Parelius will be making boutonnières and corsages for the men and women of the program, but mostly, he said, he’s “excited to make a speech to thank everyone for throwing the party!”
There’s a lot to be enthusiastic about. Elevation’s clients will be arriving in a tricked-out Sprinter van. Although they really wanted the experience of riding in a stretch limousine, living in snow country means the possibility of snow-covered roads, and so the Sprinter was the way to go. Inside the dance hall, there will be food, music, photo-ops, and dancing. Even a sensory room will be available for those who need a break from all the stimuli, as well as a respite room complete with massage chairs for caregivers to use to catch a break. To top it off, everyone will receive a gift, and at the end, will be crowned prom king and queen.
Despite having a grant to cover costs, Bankert has said that those she has approached in the community have generously been offering to donate their time and services. Downtown Truckee eatery Wagon Wheel will be serving up delicious fare. Another Elevation neighbor, Glow Salon, will be doing hair, make-up, and manicures for the ladies, and the men will be able to have their shoes shined.
Worship and Outreach Pastor Brad Noel said Sierra Bible Church is always looking for ways to serve the Truckee/Tahoe community, and that members want to be available and open their doors, especially for events such as this.
“We are excited to host Night to Shine at Sierra Bible Church,” Noel said. “… This event is going to be amazing, and we are blessed to partner with NTS to honor and bless our special needs community. We want to be an example of what it looks like to love unconditionally and be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.”
Since first playing in the NFL in 2010, Tim Tebow has been known for his deep-running faith. He launched Night to Shine in October 2014 with the vision of holding an event the Friday before Valentine’s Day, “working with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs,” according to the foundation. In its inaugural year, Night to Shine was hosted by 44 churches in 26 states and three countries outside of the U.S. By 2020, the last time it was held in person before the pandemic hit, 721 churches with 215,000 volunteers in all 50 states and 34 countries came together to celebrate 110,000 honored guests with special needs.
Each year, Tebow and his wife select a location hosting Night to Shine to visit themselves and surprise the guests. Bankert is hoping that he will pick her program’s event, and her clients have been hard at work making their case. She said everyone wrote a letter to Tebow thanking him and inviting him to their big evening.
“We found out that he always comes to one of the live events, but it’s always a surprise,” Bankert said. “I keep getting the chills because we keep hoping and praying he’s going to pop into ours. We sent him postcards of the area because some people have never been here … We sent him a Christmas ornament and Christmas card. So, we’re working it good.”
Night to Shine
Elevation Truckee will host the Tim Tebow Foundation’s annual Night to Shine, a prom-like event for adults with developmental disabilities. All developmentally disabled adults 18 and older are welcome to attend.
When: Friday, Feb. 10, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Sierra Bible Church, 11460 Brockway Rd., Truckee