PLANO, Texas (BP) — A group of students got the surprise of a lifetime when Tim Tebow showed up unexpectedly at Prestonwood Baptist Church. That evening the church was hosting one of his foundation’s Night to Shine prom events for special needs students.
The students are enrolled in St. Timothy Christian Academy, a ministry partner of Prestonwood Christian Academy. The school for students with learning differences in grades 1 through 12 is housed at Prestonwood Baptist Church. The 26 students were gathered in an atrium area for a meeting when Tebow stepped out of the elevator.
“I was surprised it was him,” Noah Sullivan said of Tebow’s visit on Friday, Feb. 8. “It’s my first time meeting him. He’s great.”
Jacob Phegley, another student, said, “I think it’s very cool that he’s here. He’s very nice. I liked when he said we would all be crowned king and queen.” Tebow wasn’t kidding: later that night, Jacob would be crowned “King Jacob Phegley.”
Started by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is a prom night experience for people (ages 14 and older) with special needs. This past Friday, more than 650 churches in America and across the world held their own Night to Shine events, celebrating over 100,000 special needs students in their communities.
This was Prestonwood Baptist Church’s fourth year hosting Night to Shine. More than 600 participants from throughout North Texas attended the event, made possible with the help of 700-plus volunteers.
“When we named it Night to Shine we did it because we believe that on a night like tonight there’s a lot of things that shine,” Tebow said to the St. Timothy students. “Number one is you guys, that you get a night where you can shine; that it’s a night where the church can shine; it’s a night where all the volunteers can shine; but maybe most importantly, it’s a night where God gets to shine. Is that pretty cool?
“We hope you really enjoy it because it’s all about you, and it’s all for you. And guess what, at the end of the night all of you will be crowned king and queen of the prom.”
Kaylin Bowman, 14, said she wanted to be a princess, Cinderella, in fact.
When Tim introduced his fiancée, 23-year-old Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, he didn’t get to mention that she is indeed, like a princess. The South African model was crowned Miss Universe in 2017.
“You know how you said you wanted to be a princess,” he said to Kaylin, “Well …,”
But he didn’t get to finish as he allowed Kaylin to continue talking about why she likes Cinderella — because she wears a blue dress and rides in a carriage and has a horse named Major. But Kaylin said she didn’t plan to wear glass slippers because they would hurt her heels. Kaylin showed Miss Universe how Cinderella wears her hair in a bun.
“You did your research!” Nel-Peters responded. “I love that!”
Jack Graham, who this year celebrates 30 years of pastoring Prestonwood, watched the encounter unfold and was grateful Tebow’s visit with St. Timothy students.
“The fact that Tim took time from his busy schedule today to spend time with the St. Timothy students speaks volumes about his heart and passion for the special needs community,” Graham said.
“This is our fourth year hosting Night to Shine, and I can tell you this is one of our favorite events at Prestonwood. We have a special place in our hearts for what we call our ‘Special Friends Ministry.’ What the Tim Tebow Foundation has done in creating Night to Shine is truly a blessing for people with special needs and all of us who are blessed to bless them on this special evening.”
Lisa McNair, St. Timothy Christian Academy’s head of school, also was present, taking note of how Tebow’s visit made the students feel special.
“As Tim and his fiancé talked with our students and took pictures and selfies, each one was made to feel significant, even our little ones who may not know who Tim Tebow is. It was indeed a blessing to see this humble champion give the gift of Christ’s joy. Our students have few moments as special as this one; we are so appreciative that Tim took time to make their day exceptional,” McNair said.
Tebow, who was visiting several other churches that also were holding Night to Shine events that evening, thanked Prestonwood for their support and for the work the church does with special needs students.
“Thank you, so much for being a part of Night to Shine. You came in on year two, so you’ve been doing it for four years,” he said, “and you’re one of our biggest churches with about 600 guests you’ll have tonight. It’s so exciting. I want to thank Pastor Graham for his ministry and what he’s done for this city and all over the country — and also for kids with special needs.”
Read more at Tim Tebow visits students for their Night to Shine.