This weekend, Max went to his first prom: Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. He was in good company—75,000 guests attended proms held in 50 states and 11 countries, staffed by 150,000 volunteers and hosted by 375 churches. Max had the most amazing time.
At the catering hall that held our three-hour event, hosted by Liquid Church, I spotted everyone from teens to adults who looked to be in their sixties. Some were decked out in suits and evening gowns; Max went with street-cool style. Each guest got a designated buddy, which is a good thing because who wants to be at a prom with their mom? "GO!" Max commanded me after we arrived, and off he went with a lovely woman named Laurie.
Parents had their own space downstairs, complete with dinner. I ended up hanging out upstairs, because I loved the buzz and wanted to see what was going on. I just made sure Max didn't spot me.
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow was inspired to start Night to Shine not because of his own prom experiences—he was homeschooled—but because of a visit as a teen to the Philippines, where he met a boy who was shut out of the event because he was disabled. In its first year, 2015, the Tim Tebow Foundation sponsored 44 proms in 26 states, as well as two in Uganda and Kenya. Last year, the group started one in Haiti, a country were people believe those with special needs are cursed. Tebow has said he aims to "change the narrative."
Makeup artists did up some of the young women. Then prom-goers walked a red carpet into the ballroom and had their photos taken. They enjoyed a catered dinner, took limo rides and met up with Star Wars characters. Oh, and they danced. Lots. Max started showing off his moves just as soon as he arrived.
At the end of the night, every participant was crowned king or queen. We weren't there for it. An hour before the evening ended, Max got tired (he usually goes to sleep around 8:00) and Laurie texted me that he wanted to go. On our way out, though, he decided he needed one more limo ride. Oh, and could he drive the limo please?
Scrolling through comments and photos on the Tim Tebow Foundation Facebook page and ones readers left on the Love That Max page, you could see what a big, happy deal this was for attendees. There were even two marriage proposals at the Night to Shine in New Hampshire.
In the weeks leading up to the event, I'd wondered if I might have any twinges of sadness that Max wasn't with a date at a typical prom. But as I looked around at all the people enjoying themselves that night, and as Max and I walked to the car and he asked if he could come back next year, all I felt was happiness and gratitude.