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Hartselle Enquirer

A night where everyone shines

Volunteer and Fairview Church member Alisha Sparkman pictured with attendee and church member Gregg Orr during the Night to Shine event. Orr enjoyed dancing and singing during the Friday night activities at Fairview-The Grace Place. | Special to the Enquirer
Volunteer and Fairview Church member Alisha Sparkman pictured with attendee and church member Gregg Orr during the Night to Shine event. Orr enjoyed dancing and singing during the Friday night activities at Fairview-The Grace Place. | Special to the Enquirer

Lauren Estes

Hartselle Enquirer

For some people outside of the Night to Shine event, it was just another Friday night, but for many participating in it across the county, it was the best night of their lives.

Gregg Orr, a 53-year-old member of Fairview- The Grace Place, (formerly Fairview-Church of God,) for more than 20 years, and has been mentally challenged since birth, but never formally diagnosed. When Orr walked through the front doors of the church and down the red carpet leading to the dance floor, he developed a smile that would not leave his face for the remainder of the night.

“It was a fun night, I got crowned by the Governor, Governor Robert Bentley,” Orr said. “I’ll never forget it for a long, long time. I put my crown on the entertainment center at home next to my John Deere tractor. I wore a white suit that Donna picked out. I loved the dancing. I sang karaoke too. I sang Amazing Grace.”

Orr has lived with Billy and Donna Vest for nearly seven years after the passing of his mother and caregiver, Louise Orr. Vest was also a volunteer and was able to watch the excitement first hand. He said Orr has the mental capacity of a six to seven-year-old and is known by all and a friend to all.

“He loved every minute of it and the whole night was amazing,” Vest said. “They all blessed us more than we blessed them. It was just such an experience to be a part of.”

According to the Tim Tebow Foundation, this year marks the third anniversary of their event, Night to Shine. In just three years, this unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs, ages 14 and older, has become a worldwide movement. This year, more than 150,000 volunteers in more than 375 churches around the world will serve more than 75,000 honored guests simultaneously on one night, Friday, February 10, 2017.

The 375 host churches represent all 50 states, 11 countries and 28 different denominations and mark an 850% growth from year one. As sponsor of Night to Shine, the Tim Tebow Foundation provides each host church with the official 2017 Night to Shine Planning Manual, the official Night to Shine Prom Kit, complete with decorations and gifts for the guests, and personalized guidance and support from a Tim Tebow Foundation staff member.

Fairview Pastor Milan Dekich said days later, he and other volunteers are still receiving the joy and thankfulness from the event attendees.

“A father of one of the guests came one day last week and said, ‘I cannot believe something like this is happening in Falkville. No one has ever done a special event for my son. He is so excited.’ A mother told me, ‘I never I thought I would be helping my daughter get ready for a prom.’” Dekich said. “A mother told me that night, ‘I’m just in awe. This is pure joy.’ What I will remember is a young lady in a yellow dress dancing so freely with a great big smile and Gregg Orr dancing and smiling. There are so many good memories of the guests and buddies laughing and dancing and coming in on the red carpet. God smiled on that event because he loves the least of these and showered it with love and joy. “

Fairview Church member and event volunteer Alisha Sparkman said that everyone involved in the event had a certain spark about them that spread through the facility.

“The air was filled with joy! Everyone, from the workers, to the attendees were glowing,’ Sparkman said. “The unity between everyone was so beautiful. My favorite moment was dancing with sweet Carson and he truly touched my heart. He was in a motorized wheelchair, but he didn’t let that stop him from spinning me around in circles. To think, that in that moment, he had no worries, cares or burdens. He was just dancing the night away. He made my heart so happy. I was so blessed to be a part of his big day! Jesus truly made him, and all of the other attendants, so special in every way. They deserve to feel like kings and queens they truly are. To be loved, adored, and thought of and that night, even though only for a moment, gave them that opportunity.”

One of the event organizers and church member Danielle Hayes said the preparations began in November of 2016, but nothing could prepare them for the blessing they would receive through those who volunteered and supported the event.

“We had a planning team of about 20 people and we meet every week from first November up until the Night to Shine,” Hayes said. “We all worked really hard to make this night as special as possible. It really was an amazing night for everyone. I’m so blessed the Tim Tebow Foundation let me be a part of this amazing night. The smile on each guest’s face as they walked the red carpet was unforgettable and life changing. I thank God for giving this idea to Tim Tebow and his team because it made difference in so many people’s lives. I can’t wait until year because we plan to host again. God’s way is always perfect and God made this night amazing.”

According to Hayes, the event had 95 buddies or dates for the attendees, 63 attendees and 226 volunteers.

“We sent out 400 invitations to schools VOA, CDC in Cullman -and nursing homes, and we had several from the church all 14 and older,” Hayes said. “We mailed out invitations first of November.”

The process of hosting began some time ago as Pastor Milan Dekich signed the church up to be a host location for the Night to Shine event.

“Milan signed us up and at first they wanted us to combined with Central Baptist in Decatur, but Milan sent pictures of the church and talked with the Tim Tebow foundation and explained we could both do it that there was plenty of guests in the area where we both could host,” Hayes said. “Fairview could invite guest toward Hartselle but nothing north of Hartselle. They did send some materials, but Cindy Baker came up with most of the decorations. Kathryn Landers came up with food ideas, organized and coordinated the kitchen. Jessica Scott was responsible for all the Boutonnieres and wrist corsages. Kim Baker worked really hard in making sure we had plenty of buddies for our guest and assisted with decorations.”

Event photographer Kelly Miller said she became emotional through the other end of her lens as she watched dozens of joy filled people walk through the doors of Fairview and onto a dance floor.

“Seeing how happy each person looked when they walked the red carpet and had everyone clapping for them, it made me tear up on several occasions,” Miller said. “When they saw the dance floor, the happiness on their faces was truly priceless. The best was that I got to see it over and over when I looked through the photos. I had several tears of happiness. It was an honor to help capture those moments.”

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