Ahwatukee Pastor Jeff Zubeck

Ahwatukee Pastor Jeff Zubeck is helping to organize the Night to Shine for East Valley residents with special needs.

Three local congregations of the Living Word Bible Church are joining with the Tim Tebow Foundation to assure area special needs teens have a prom night to remember.

The Feb. 7 event is the first Night to Shine in the East Valley, and it joins more than 655 host churches in every U.S. state and 24 countries – all of whom hold the prom night before Valentine’s Day.

The sixth annual world-wide event offers people with special needs, ages 14 and older, a memorable evening - including an entrance walk on a red carpet, paparazzi, professional photography, hair and make-up for girls and a shoe shine for fellas. Dancing, food and the crowning of a prom king and queen also are on tap.

There is one aspect setting it apart from other proms: at Night to Shine, every guest attendee is crowned queen or king of the prom and a tiara or crown is placed upon each head.

Worldwide, nearly 100,000 special needs guests are assisted by 200,000 volunteers who undertake a variety of roles to ensure a special evening for all. 

A moving “2019 – Night to Shine” video, available on the Tim Tebow Foundation website, shows the joy and excitement of these special promgoers in the U.S. and abroad. 

“Every single person is important,” said Tebow, who sponsors many other charitable events and activities. “We’re all loved; we’re all created in God’s image.”

Tebow was born in the Philippines where his missionary parents were serving. The youngest of five children, he moved with his family to Florida when he was three. 

His career as a quarterback in high school and the University of Florida, where he was the 2007 Heisman Trophy, led him to the NFL. His strong Christian stance was well-illustrated with his practice of kneeling on one knee becoming known as “Tebowing.”

The Living Word Bible Church at 3520 E. Brown Road, Mesa, is the host site of the East Valley Night to Shine and members from their congregation and sister churches in Ahwatukee, Gilbert and Scottsdale are providing assistance and volunteers.

In addition to online training, the Living Word Bible Church hosted two volunteer sessions for their inaugural Night to Shine prom.

The Tim Tebow Foundation requires background checks for all volunteers and volunteers under age 18 need parental permission.

Cliff Maes, outreach director at the Mesa host church, said since this is the first year Living Word Bible Church will host Night to Shine, they opted to limit attendance to 75 guests. 

“We wanted to make sure we did it just right, and having a smaller group we knew would help us do that,” said Maes, a Gilbert resident. 

The church was recommended to the Tim Tebow Foundation by a parishioner.

“Since we’re opening our new Special Needs Ministry, one of our volunteers suggested us to the Foundation. They asked us if we would be willing and we said, ‘yes, that would be great!’ We started getting inquiries before we even posted,” Maes said. “And we hit our 280 mark for volunteers three weeks ago.”

He said the special event dovetailed with the church’s launch of a special-needs ministry and three rooms for the Living Word Champions Club.

“We’re creating a special-needs space because there are families in our congregation and community that cannot worship freely because they don’t have a place they trust to accommodate the needs – both safely and educationally – for their children with special needs,” he explained.  

Among the many volunteers signed up for Night to Shine are parishioners from the Living Word Bible Church in Ahwatukee. 

Pastor Jeff Zubeck and wife Tammy have overseen the church, at 14647 S. 50th St., for 10 years.

“Our primary focus is on the family, and we look at how anything we do affects the family and A Night to Shine was one way to get involved,” said Jeff Zubeck, whose church on Jan. 31 held a dance for kids aging out of the foster care system. 

“Through acceptance, laughter, and love, our services and ministries show people just how valuable they are to God, and just how much they can accomplish in this lifetime through Jesus,” he said.

The Living Word Bible Churches in Gilbert and Scottsdale are also providing volunteers.

Because this is a night of music, bright lights and fun, Night to Shine also provides a respite room for parents and caregivers to relax as each prom attendee has a personally-assigned volunteer during the event.  

The Tebow Foundation also requires a “sensory room,” a quiet space to allow guests to be away from the noise and excitement should they become overwhelmed or over-stimulated. 

According to the Tim Tebow Foundation and Night to Shine website, nine churches in Arizona are hosting a prom night this year, including Mountain View Church in Queen Creek, Highlands Church in Scottsdale and Twentynine11 in Tempe.

For more information on Night to Shine and other ministries the former NFL quarterback, missionary kid and sports commentator oversees, see TimTebowFoundation.org.  

For information on the Living Word Bible Church: LivingWordOnline.com.

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