“My wife and I had tears running down our face,” says Pastor Craig Millar.
Craig Millar will never forget that moment when he watched everyone walk down the red carpet in February of 2020.
And no, we’re not talking about the 2020 Oscars.
As the evening dawned on Horizon Church’s third annual “Night to Shine,” Millar, his wife, and dozens of ecstatic volunteers watched fondly as students with disabilities strolled down the red carpet to celebrate their authentic prom night.
“For this year’s event, we reset where the red carpet was so that the students had a more distinguished entrance,” said Horizon Church Lead Pastor Craig Millar.
“I’m going to get emotional just talking about it. To watch them take off their jackets, see the lights go up, the music turn on, and then we’re all there clapping, these students just had the biggest smiles. My wife and I both had tears running down our faces. Just to see these persons with disabilities feeling the absolute love and the joy of everyone around them. It was absolutely mind-blowing and powerful for me.”
How “Night to Shine” came to be in Surrey
The idea for “Night to Shine,” isn’t unique to Surrey, and people familiar with the sporting world might recognize the person who founded the event.
Six years ago, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow founded the event to create the ultimate prom experience for teenagers with disabilities. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation’s website, approximately 721 churches around the world celebrated the event, honouring more than 115,000 guests in the process.
“We first heard about the event through someone in our church community. She has a daughter with disabilities, so when she heard of the event, she brought it to me.
“I looked a little deeper, met with her and another daughter who is a little older, and then we started brainstorming. With money from Tim Tebow Foundation, our own funds, and grants from organizations like SurreyCares, we started going for it.”
Millar and Horizon Church hosted their first “Night to Shine” in February of 2018. They had 70 guests that night. In 2019, that total jumped to 130 guests, and this past February, there were 160 registered guests.
“Sometimes you never know how successful events like this are going to be but once we did one, we knew it was going to grow because it was so valuable,” Millar said.
“It was just incredible to see people with disabilities honoured, and just seeing the way they were impacted. It was not just the students though, but also the volunteers who were impacted by being able to be a part of it.
“We’re created to serve, give back and love others. That’s really incredible and all of that was on display during “Night to Shine.”
How “Night to Shine” brings together the community
As Millar mentions, one of the greatest aspects of hosting an event like “Night to Shine” is the buy-in from the rest of the community.
“Once word of the event got out, there was such a broad range of people alongside the church which increased what we could accomplish together.”
“The thing we discovered is that most able-bodied people, some were just a little nervous because they didn’t know what to expect if you’ve never had a close connection for people with disabilities. After that, it’s about working together and again, they became the greatest recruiters of others.”
Over the past three years, Horizon Church has experienced a snowball effect with the number of volunteers and businesses participating in “Night to Shine.” Here is the list of businesses that supported the “Night to Shine” in Surrey on February 12th.
Dark Knight Security
Floral Support - Apko Nurseries
Parisian Premia Events
Big Day Studios
Bean in Love
U & I Entertainment
Forever Captured Photobooth Rentals
Tessa Lynn Artistry
SurreyCares was also able to support “Night to Shine” as well with a Community Grant for their efforts.
“For us, the grant immediately allowed us to move forward with certainty,” Millar said. “It enabled us to stretch our budget, which was important because our guest total was increasing.
“It enabled us to make sure everyone who could come, could come. We had better food spread, and every bit of food was still gone. We also had people show up who weren’t registered, so between our funds, funds from the Tim Tebow Foundations, and the grant from SurreyCares, every little bit helped.
Millar notes that Horizon Church was lucky to host their event on February 12th, not much more than three weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic put all large gatherings on standby.
While noting that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, Millar says Surrey’s Horizon Church is still planning to go ahead with “Night to Shine” in 2021.