‘A Night to Shine’ Set Friday in Moundsville

Photo Provided Guests at a previous “Night to Shine” event are greeted by fans. The event, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, will return to Moundsville for the third year on Friday.

Nearly 150 special needs guests will return to Moundsville for the third year on Friday as part of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine.

Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Glen Easton’s Bowman United Methodist Church was selected last month as one of more than 500 churches to host the event, which organizer Kristi Crawford expects to see nearly 150 special needs guests attend. This number has risen from their first year in 2016, when 100 guests attended.

“We’re already at 130 right now,” Crawford said. “People that come are returning and bringing friends with them. There are people who come from nearly two hours away. They’re from Ohio, to the top of Hancock County.”

Crawford said the Ohio Valley event was the first of its kind in West Virginia, though since its inception, four more have sprung up around the state. Crawford said they are trying to draw more participation in the Ohio Valley chapter by contacting Special Olympics groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but without much success. However, word from participants around those areas between guests and parents, she said, is working to bring in new faces.

“We had one guest who was hesitant to come the very first year — we had to call his parents — sort of talk him into coming, and then once he started, he’s our first. He’s calling and asking, ‘When can I sign up?'”

Much like a prom night, the Night to Shine involves bringing the guests in with a limousine. They then walk down a red carpet, with hair and makeup stations for ladies and shoe shining for men. Afterwards, a catered dinner, this year offered by Bob’s Lunch, is held, followed by karaoke and dancing, as well as a gift bag offered through the foundation.

Moving forward, Crawford said the church hopes to draw in more volunteers, especially among youths and college students. Many current volunteers come from local sports teams, as several coaches are involved and bring their students down to assist.

What has hurt participation, Crawford said, was the closure of Bishop Donahue High School, which saw a significant percentage of its student body assist.

“It did hurt us, losing Bishop Donahue, because they would always donate 60 volunteers for us. That was pretty much the whole school,” she said. “They loved it, they’d pack our bags for us. Moundsville Middle (School) is packing our bags this year, but the loss of Bishop Donahue really hurt us. Having that close, when they gave us such support. It was kind of a whole school project. But we do have some returning Bishop Donahue students coming back, because of the experience they had while they were there.”

“We have a boy in college who was with Bishop Donahue for two years, and in college, he’s gotten college kids up at Bethany, and he’s bring them with him.. … We want to be able to show what we can do here in West Virginia, to show what we have to offer in a smaller community, and to offer this opportunity to our guests with special needs.”

The event is set for 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Moundsville Training Center, inside the walls of the former West Virginia Penitentiary. The doors open at 5:30 p.m.