Night to Shine – Newsletter Feature

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/stories/krissies-night-shine

Guess what?!  I want to share with you that I received the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF)’s quarterly newsletter today.  Wondering who made the Night to Shine feature?

None other than my sweet sister, Krissie!!!

Krissie was thrilled to hear her story had been chosen.  What an honor it is to share with the world how one precious night impacted her as well as our family in such a powerful and loving way.

She still smiles whenever she recounts that beautiful February evening.  Can’t you just hear her giggling?

Words fail to adequately describe the deep appreciation we have for the TTF, Leah (Krissie’s Buddy, pictured above), Pastor Joseph Velarde of Riverbend Church in Allentown, PA, and his incredible team for hosting the prom that brought out people with special needs from all over the Lehigh Valley, bringing them into a place where they were celebrated, honored, and loved for the amazing kings and queens that they are.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  May God richly bless you always.

Please click on the link to read her feature:

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/stories/krissies-night-shine

 

Boo Boo Bear

I must tell you a story.

Friday night, my 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, brought her fuzzy friend, Tashi, to the Tim Tebow Foundation‘s Night to Shine event at Riverbend Community Church in Allentown, PA.  Both Hannah and I volunteered as makeup artists at this amazing prom for people with special needs, but I had no idea how deeply and in what ways the evening would impact her.

I would drive the 200 miles again.  In a heartbeat.

Nine years ago, my sister, Krissie, had given a huggable, lovable Winnie-the-Pooh to Hannah on her second birthday.  She had fallen in love with it instantly.

“Oh, Aunt KiKi, I just love her!  I’m naming her Tashi.”

From that moment on, Tashi ate at our table and shared Hannah’s bed, rode in the backseat and sat alongside the bathtub.  They were inseparable, these two.

Until one dreadful evening.

We’d gone to my in-laws’ for Chicken Scampi when, lo and behold, sweet Tashi slipped under the table and fell prey to their frisky Labrador Retriever named Bodi.  Papa came to her rescue, but not before she lost her right arm from the shoulder down.  Try as he may, Papa couldn’t repair the severed appendage.  Sweet Hannah had to settle for a simple seam in place of the arm that once was.

And it was hard.

Hannah grieved the loss for her friend.  No more dancing in the fall leaves like princesses do at a ball.  No more patty-cake.  No more two-armed hugs.

She asked for a new bear, one that could do all of those things.  Aunt KiKi complied as did my mother-in-law.  One of those new animals got lost on a grocery trip, so the remaining bear assumed the role of “Tashi” in Hannah’s life.

During our next basement spring cleaning as we thinned out all the toys and stuffed animals, Hannah found herself unable to part with her disabled friend and decided to rename the original Tashi “Boo Boo Bear”.  It was a great segway into talking about how upset Hannah been when Boo Boo had gotten hurt.  Hannah realized how much she’d missed Boo Boo and that she was still a really good friend because her heart mattered more than her arms ever did.

“I want to keep her forever, Mommy.  I love her.”

Years passed with few ups and several drastic downs in Hannah’s life.  One of the worst was when Aunt Ki Ki was in a terrible accident.

She lost her right arm above the shoulder.  Just like Boo Boo Bear.

I’ll never forget telling Hannah and her siblings about Aunt KiKi’s arm.  After everyone cried together, I brought out Boo Boo Bear.  Hannah’s small smile spread through her tears.

“See how much we love Boo Boo Bear?” I asked.  Everyone nodded.  “Aunt Ki Ki is still the same wonderful amazing person inside.  A missing arm can’t change that, right, Hannah?”

She nodded gently and reached for Boo Boo, hugging her fiercely.

Five years later, Hannah has remained sensitive to her aunt’s disabilities and asked to volunteer with me at Night to Shine.  Right before we left for PA, she got the dreadful news that Tashi, the Second, who’d been MIA since a beachside hotel stay, had been discarded the previous month.  We’d had trouble tracking her down, so by the time we connected with the person in-the-know, it was too late.  The staff had held onto Tashi for a while, realizing she was special to someone, hoping she would be claimed but had finally given up.

Hannah’s heart broke.

She was inconsolable, and I ached for her.  Dear God, what can I do?

He put it in my heart to go down to the bin in the basement and resurrect Boo Boo Bear, the original Tashi.  I complied and then made my cautious approach.

“I thought you might like to hold her – Boo Boo Bear.”  I held out the fluffy golden animal. Hannah refused to touch it.

“But, Mom,” she said, “I still miss the other Tashi!”  Hannah’s defenses rose, and I felt the drawbridge of her heart begin its creaky rise above the moat.

“Of course you do,” I said, intentionally pausing long, hugging her close.  “Tashi was and will always be a special friend.”  I felt Hannah relax against me as I sat next to her.

After she cried a little, I reached over and placed Boo Boo Bear on her lap.  Hannah gingerly grasped her torso and then carefully fingered the seam on the bear’s right shoulder.

“I think it’s amazing you still have this one,” I said.  “She was your first friend, you know.”

Hannah stared for a long moment.  Then, ever-so-slowly, she nodded as the corners of her mouth turned up.  “That is neat.”  She gave Boo Boo a warm embrace and spun around the room.  “I’m going to call her Tashi again.”  Hannah glanced at me.

“I think that’s a a wonderful idea, Sweetheart.”

“Can she come with us to Night to Shine?”

“Absolutely!”  I smiled, elated and relieved.  I checked my watch.  “You’d better hustle upstairs and get Tashi ready – we need to leave soon.”

“That’s right!”  Hannah beamed, staring with love at her dear friend.  “Come on, Tashi!  I’ve got just the dress for you.  And wait until you see my new JoJo Siwa bows I got for my birthday!”  The pair disappeared down the hallway.

My heart sang the rest of the night to see how my daughter had blossomed and grown through painful loss and challenging times.  How she delighted to volunteer and be blessed by Night to Shine.  How she was moved to tears many times throughout the night.  She had been given the opportunity to not only apply the guests’ eye shadow and lip gloss but also experience the importance of making people with special needs feel valued, honored, and beautiful.

Because they are.

How fitting, how touching, how amazing, the timing of it all, these three precious ladies sharing this evening together, dancing the night away.

Aunt KiKi, Hannah, and Tashi.

Shining.

 

Night to Shine

I want to remember last night forever.

My sister, Krissie, was absolutely stunning in her lacy black gown, her makeup and curls, but I’ll never forget how she “looked”.

Full of sheer joy, glowing and radiant, wearing a wide, full smile that lingered, resting across her pretty, glittered face all evening long.  She practically floated around the dance floor with her wonderful Buddy, Leah, at the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine event in Allentown, PA, sighing dreamily.

Utter bliss.

Krissie wasn’t the only one.  Continual displays of delight from guests at this prom for people with special needs made the night.  These precious souls hit the limelight running, posing for the paparazzi, waving from the limo, strolling the red carpet, cutting super-slick moves – the dance floor was packed, especially during the crowning ceremony at the end of the night.  Kings and Queens of the Prom, royal in their right, children of the King, displaying the splendor of His love as they basked in it.

I’ve been to proms and parties in rooms filled with glitter and gowns, tuxes and roses, DJs and treats.  The element that sets Night to Shine apart?

Love.  Unbridled, ardent, beautiful love in its purest form.

Years ago, I’d volunteered at Krissie’s Special Olympics swimming practice, and I’d noticed a new volunteer standing off to the side.  I walked over, shook his hand, and introduced myself, asking how he’d gotten involved.  After glancing downward for several seconds, he raised his eyes to mine.

“I want to find God – I thought maybe I’d find Him here.”

God’s presence was undeniable at last night’s event.  He has deep affection for people with special needs, and the many who served at Night to Shine passed His love onto guests in a way they could see, touch, hug, and feel, allowing them to experience Him through the heart of another, a person not bound to them by blood or by paycheck, a person who wanted to give of their time and attention because their King/Queen was worth it.

And so much more.

From the radiant guests strolling the red carpet in fancy attire to the volunteers steadfastly serving and smiling, all present were blessed by each other.  Every person, young or old, small or tall, needs to feel loved and valued for who they are. Last night, that need was fully met in an arena that was safe, loving, and celebratory of each person as a unique and beautiful child of God.

Tears and tissues were everywhere.

Parents oscillated between beaming and tearing up.  That night meant the world to their children, who longed for a place outside of their home where they could be free to be themselves and be fully loved, appreciated, and celebrated for who they are.  Throughout the evening, parents enjoyed the opportunity to gaze from afar as others buddied up with their son/daughter.

Krissie hadn’t wanted me to be her Buddy.  At first, I was a little disappointed, but I soon realized why.  She wanted somebody new to love her that didn’t “have to” – she wanted the chance to be loved solely for the person that she is, the chance to receive love from another because they want to give it as she gives her love to others.

Completely.  Unreservedly.  Wholeheartedly.

Buddy slots for the event filled to capacity as volunteers came out in droves from all over the Valley – and beyond – to love on their honored guests.  So organized, so united in their mission to make every guest feel like the royalty the are.  It was evident that the event impacted every person involved, from the parking lot attendants to the photographers, the hairstylists to the foodservice workers.

It impacted me.  Deeply.  To see my sweet sister, this one I love so much, beautified and honored in countless, thoughtful ways.

I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

Thank you, Riverbend Church and Pastor Joe Velarde, for opening your doors and hosting this incredible event.  Thank you, to the Tim Tebow Foundation, for having the vision and heart to make every person feel loved and valued.  Thank you to every volunteer who made my sister feel like the Queen that she is.

Thank you all for making this her Night to Shine.