Hair: check. Makeup: check. Polished shoes: check.

That was the least of the prep checklist for more than 60 people—many of them teens—who walked down the red carpet in downtown Sarasota Friday night at "Night to Shine."

The prom-inspired, free international event celebrates people ages 14 and up with disabilities—and this weekend, for the first time, it was hosted in Sarasota, at the Church of the Redeemer. Our city joined thousands of others in all 50 states and 42 countries. In total, more than 100,000 guests attended a "Night to Shine" event this year.

The concept launched in 2015, with 44 host churches and 15,000 volunteers honoring more than 7,000 guests. Five years later, in 2020, 721 host churches and 215,000 volunteers came together to celebrate 110,000 guests with special needs. The event went virtual during the pandemic. 

The goal of the formal-yet-fun night is to empower its attendees and spread joy. Guests walked down that red carpet in front of the church on Palm Avenue, then were pampered with shoe shining, hair and makeup. Each attendee was matched with a “buddy” volunteer for the evening and the event, held from 6 to 9 p.m. included a limo ride along the bayfront. 

A DJ announced each attendee's return by name as they walked into the parish hall, where they were treated to a catered dinner by Chef Jeff Trefry. The dance floor was packed with guests and buddies and more than one conga line dominated the dance floor. There was also a photo booth with fun props and outside, in the courtyard, guests performed karaoke. Finally, each guest was crowned and Beaver Shriver from Rise and Nye’s brought ice cream. City of Sarasota mayor Kyle Battie and former mayor and current City of Sarasota Commissioner Erik Arroyo added a sprinkle of local stardust when they took the dais, too. In all, more than 200 adult and youth volunteers and more than 100 parents and caregivers were also in attendance at the Sarasota event.

"Night to Shine" is an annual celebration sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Churches must apply to be an event host. Click here to learn more.

Show Comments