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MJ church chosen to host Tim Tebow's 'Night to Shine'

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"I genuinely believe, from the bottom of my heart, that statistics will never motivate you; a specific story will motivate you. If one person realizes that God loves them, that's enough." - Tim Tebow
"I genuinely believe, from the bottom of my heart, that statistics will never motivate you; a specific story will motivate you. If one person realizes that God loves them, that's enough." - Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow escorts an elated prom queen to the Night to Shine prom held last year at First Christ Church Ministries in Kernersville, NC. This year's worldwide event will be held Feb. 12. Friendship Community Church in Mt. Juliet was chosen this year to be one of hundreds of hosts in the United States. Photos courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation

Shine and shimmer a special night

She hopes to wear a pink or purple prom dress.

"Maybe even red!" Taegan Martin said.

She might dig out the prom dress she wore her senior year at high school. Feb. 12 is the big night. Hair, makeup, nails, pampering and even a limo.

It's a prom night to shine, have fun and celebrate life.

Taegan, 26, said Feb. 12 is a special date for her. Maybe not so much in a good way, in some aspects. Glass half full; it's a good date. A special anniversary. It was three years ago on this very date, in Hawaii, when she was in a terrible pedestrian accident. She suffered a traumatic brain injury. She now has special needs, but to speak with her, you mostly think she's simply special.

"Every time this date rolls around, I want to celebrate life," she said. "The fact I'm still alive."

She will celebrate, along with over 30,000 honored guests across 48 states and eight countries. On Feb. 12, with NFL football player Tim Tebow honorary host, Taegan will get glammed up and be part of the second annual "Night to Shine" as part of the Tim Tebow Foundation's homage to the special needs community.

"Our No. 1 goal is make you feel like kings and queens," Tebow said last year at one of the proms he attended. "But to be honest with you, every moment of your life God looks at you like a king or queen because you are so special."

MJ church chosen to host

Friendship Community Church (which meets at Elzie Patton Elementary School in Mt. Juliet) was chosen as a host church, and the church's Event Coordinator Lisa Miller-Rich, along with a volunteer squad of enthusiastic church and community members, have been working non-stop to organize the prom that is mostly paid for by Tebow's foundation.

"There are so many special stories we've learned about our 100 guests who will attend," she said. "Taegan is one of them. She will attend the prom on the three-year anniversary of her accident. We think of this as God redeeming this date."

They realize it's a high honor to be chosen as a host church for the foundation's prom. Because there are 100 honored guests with special needs, 200 volunteers (most will be 'buddies' to help out the guests this night) and 120 additional caregivers, the prom can't take place at their church home at Elzie Patton.

"It will be at the American Legion building in Donelson," Miller-Rich said.

That night several tents will spring up at the location where the women and girl guests will have their hair and makeup done at various stations. They will receive corsages and the gentleman guests will receive a boutonniere. Each will have a "buddy" to help them along the way. Ninety-three of the volunteers are from the physical therapy program at Tennessee State.

"We are so grateful for the volunteers," Miller-Rich said. "This could not come together without them."

At Tebow's request, every volunteer associated with this special night across the board had to pass a background check.

CMA Fest professional helping organize

Because it's such a huge endeavor to pull off this night to remember a lifetime, Miller-Rich said she's grateful to her husband Art. He just happens to be extremely familiar with the production side of this type of event because he helps run production at the CMA Fest in Nashville each year.

"He's donated so much time and energy, and experience," Miller-Rich said.

Because about 12 of the guests are wheelchair bound, they've made sure they are in compliance with access.

The guests will walk an authentic red carpet into the prom.

"It was the one used at the last CMA awards," Miller -Rich noted with a smile.

After a short limo ride from hair and makeup, the guests will be escorted down the red carpet by those dressed in military blues.

Like Taegan, who is still searching for the perfect dress, those who can't afford one will have a chance to choose from 90 dresses donated by Holy Temple Church.

"There's an online shopping store for them to shop," Miller-Rich noted.

The guys who need a little help will get a huge discount on their tux from a community partner. Of course there will be a DJ on site, as well as karaoke opportunities, a photo booth and buffet line.

"Each will be crowned king or queen when they enter the party room," said Miller-Rich.

"The church is just abuzz about this event," Miller-Rich said. "It's about getting to be part of something bigger than us. It's a reflection of who God is. None of us are worthy, but He let's us be."

Taegan loved her "fancy" invitation to the prom that came via mail. One dad said he wished he could have videotaped his daughter's expression when she opened her invitation.

"It was priceless," he said.

And while Taegan said she doesn't have a date, she's excited to meet her "buddy" for the night.

"I can't wait to wear the tiara," she said.

'Once-in-a-lifetime' event

There's a waiting list for this event because it's stirred the imagination of the community.

Shining this night will be special people from young to their 60's.

One of Tebow's first surprise stops of Night to Shine 2015 was in North Carolina where he was "blessed " to walk the red carpet with a beautiful queen of the prom. He recalled one of his favorite moments.

"When I was at one of the proms last year, a beautifully dressed queen of the prom was hugging me when the girl's mom leaned over and whispered with tears in her eyes, 'My daughter will never get married and she will never have children, but tonight you made her feel like a princess!'"

One local dad is on pins and needles, excited to escort his daughter to the prom hosted by Friendship Community Church. He asked Miller-Rich if they could possibly include a "father daughter" dance that evening. She said of course.

"I know my daughter will never get married, and I just want to have this once-in-a-lifetime dance with my special girl," he said.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverettwrites@gmail.com.

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church, event, Friendship Community Church, king and queen, Mt. Juliet, Night to Shine, prom, special needs, Tim Tebow
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