Former NFL star Tim Tebow has partnered up with the Vatican to hold a huge “Night to Shine” event in Rome for those with special needs.
The functions, laid on by the Tim Tebow Foundation, are billed as an “unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love."
The event took place at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-run think tank that addresses some of the most profound questions regarding human life. The glamorous evening was jam-packed with dancing, music, pizza buffets and the ceremonial crowning of every single guest as “Prom King” or “Prom Queen” - a rite of passage for American teens.
Though the party in Rome garnered some press attention, it certainly wasn’t the only Night to Shine event being held this year. In fact, as Tebow revealed on Twitter, there were some 721 events held across 34 different countries with 215,000 volunteers and 110,000 honored guests. Tebow called it an “incredible night celebrating God’s love for humanity!”
Speaking to Religion News Service, the former Denver Broncos quarterback opened up about his faith-filled reasons for hosting such a unique event. “I don't think God gives us strength so we can lift things; I think he gives us strength so we can lift other people," he explained. “That's what we want to do. We want to lift other people and share the love of Jesus with them."
Tebow’s ethos for the event is simple: Hollywood rolls out red carpets for VIPs all the time as a symbol of importance and honor. So, why shouldn’t we lay on the same star treatment for those with special needs, who are all of infinite value to God?
Reflecting on six years of running the event, Tebow tweeted that he “can't help but think how incredibly unique each event is around the world.”
“The cultures are as different as the many languages, but the language of God’s love transcends them all,” he added.
"It's a beautiful party with a lot of music and with many people!” one patron told RNS. “To be here makes me feel like, well, a character from the Avengers!" he said. "I love this evening; I want to celebrate my birthday like this!"
“To all of the honored guests of #NightToShine— I love you, we love you, but more importantly God loves you,” Tebow tweeted following the conclusion of the events. “God is always with you, & His love for you is constant! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God...” 1 John 3:1”
Beyond his athletic prowess, Tebow has become known for his relentless desire to help others. The sportsman - whose parents were both Baptist missionaries - has spoken openly about how an experience in the Philippines when he was a teenager instilled in him a God-given desire to advocate on behalf of the oppressed.
“My life was changed when I was 15 in the jungles in the Philippines and I met a man with his feet on backwards," he said, lamenting the horror of seeing the villagers scorn the man for his disability.
"I knew from that moment that yeah, I wanted to play sports and all this stuff, but I knew that my purpose was to fight for people who can't fight for themselves.”