A 70-year-old man, escorted by a University of Richmond student, was crowned prom king on Friday evening.
For one night each year in downtown Richmond at the Altria Theatre, this traditionally unusual circumstance can mean only one thing: Night to Shine.
Night to Shine is an event hosted by the Tim Tebow Foundation meant to serve as a prom for people with any degree of physical or mental disability. This year, the guests of honor ranged from 15 to 75 years old and were all escorted throughout the evening by volunteer dates. Among those volunteers were 60 UR students.
This is the second year that a large number of UR students have participated in the evening. Richmond Night to Shine Director Darlene Blaum noted the impact of their presence.
“We love having those guys out,” Blaum said. “They can handle any kind of guest.”
Blaum also emphasized the importance of encouraging the college-aged demographic to interact with the special needs community. Younger generations typically do not have much experience with people who have special needs and as a result, shy away from these sorts of events, Blaum said.
An increased participation in the event by UR students was initiated in 2018 by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. According to its webpage, SAAC is a committee made up of student-athletes assembled to provide input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes.
Additionally, the UR chapter has made a point to encourage community outreach in recent years.
SAAC president and senior Abby Lyons served as the point of contact between the Night to Shine administration and UR student-athletes this year.
“I think it’s important for student-athletes to participate in these sorts of events because it gives us the opportunity to connect with the greater Richmond community,” Lyons said. “It is so easy for us to get focused on our busy lives, running from class to practice, and nights like this remind us how lucky we are to play a sport we love at a school like Richmond.”
Tim Miller, a junior member of the baseball team, expressed similar sentiments on the personal impact of the evening.
“Sharing the whole prom experience with kids and adults that haven’t had the opportunity to experience the things we take for granted was truly amazing,” Miller said. “Seeing all the Richmond students help out shows how much the UR community cares and how much of an impact we can have.”
In total, 512 honored guests were crowned prom king or queen at the Richmond Night to Shine. After adding in the volunteers and parents who also filled the halls of the Altria Theatre, roughly 1,600 people gathered to celebrate the special needs community.
“I hope people left realizing that people with special needs aren’t scary," Blaum said. "They’re just like us.”
Contact contributor Jessica Stanfill at firstname.lastname@example.org.