Maria Jabbour

Night to Shine 2024

I felt the excitement in the air as I entered the Middle East University on the evening of May 15 for the sixth annual Night to Shine event hosted by SKILD-Center, a ministry of Thimar-LSESD. The event aimed to provide an unforgettable prom experience for people with special needs ages 14 years and older. It centered on God’s boundless love and acceptance and making the guests feel like royalties for the night. Every year, churches and organizations around the world host the event, which is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. 

Volunteers greeted attendees with warm smiles as they entered the venue. Each special guest was paired with a buddy, and I was honored to be George’s buddy for the evening. As George greeted me, he shared his interests with me, particularly his love for working as a waiter at Agonist Café, a Lebanese coffee franchise that employs people with special needs and was one of the sponsors of the event. His passion for working as a waiter shows through his dedication to serving others. Beyond his work, George has a love for dancing that adds an extra layer of joy and liveliness to his personality. Together at the event, George and I stopped by the crafts area where we collaborated on creating a personalized star bearing his name. After that, his star was presented on a display for everyone to see. It was a simple yet powerful gesture that made each guest feel valued and celebrated. 

George then enjoyed a hair session, followed by a shoe-shining station to complete his royal look. I could see the joy in him as he looked at himself in the mirror, beaming with pride and excitement. We then headed to the limousines, where George’s eyes widened with excitement as he saw the vehicle for the first time.  After that, we headed to the crowning ceremony. Welcomed by cheerleaders and shining lights, George and I confidently strolled down the red carpet. It was a moment I will never forget, as I saw George feeling like a true king for the night. 

The highlight of the evening was the coronation ceremony, where Lebanese celebrities had the privilege of crowning each guest as a king or queen. George beamed with pride as he received his crown, and I could see the joy in his eyes as he was celebrated for who he is. 

Night to Shine SKILD Center Thimar - LSESD

Hiba Al Jamal, the director of SKILD, delivered a heartfelt speech emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive environments where individuals with special needs feel valued and celebrated. She stated, “These children are God’s royalties. They are created, valued, and worthy of every attention and every care.” Nabil Costa, the CEO of Thimar, spoke to the audience about his vision for a society that celebrates diversity and encourages unity. He emphasized that their work at Thimar is not just about business but also about social and ministry work. Costa highlighted the importance of collaboration with parents, referring to them as partners crucial to their mission. His words served as a reminder that each person deserves dignity, respect, and love, likening them to royalty because they are made in God’s image. He concluded by quoting 1 John 3:18: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 

Following the coronation ceremony, attendees enjoyed a delightful dinner, and then the dance floor opened, inviting everyone to dance the night away. The evening was filled with laughter, joy, and a deep sense of community. To cap off the unforgettable evening, all the celebrities were called onstage for the ceremonial cutting of the cake, which was specially designed for this momentous occasion.  

Night to Shine 2024- SKILD - Thimar - LSESD

The Night to Shine prom wasn’t just a dazzling night for guests like George, it was a powerful reminder that true inclusion starts with small acts of love. Being a buddy in real life is simple – it’s striking up a conversation with someone new, offering to help a struggling friend, or simply listening with a kind ear. These simple acts hold immense power, building a more welcoming community that reflects the love and compassion we’re called to share. The Night to Shine may have ended, but the spirit of inclusion and love continues, one kind act at a time. 

Let us always remember these kings and queens and continue to advocate for them, not just for one night, but everyday. Reflecting on the event, I am reminded of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s words: “Night to Shine is a night where people get to understand their worth… that God loves them and that God has an amazing plan for their life.” 

Night to Shine 2024- SKILD - Thimar - LSESD
Night to Shine 2024- SKILD - Thimar - LSESD

WATCH THIS VIDEO TO RELIVE MOMENTS FROM NIGHT TO SHINE!  

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Together, we can make every day as special as Night to Shine for these incredible individuals.

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