For the second consecutive year, The United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches will host the “Night to Shine” prom for people with special needs, Friday, Feb. 10, from 6-9 p.m.
The Rev. Phyllis Parthemer, director of the special needs ministry at the church, says the event will be one of more than 380 celebrations held around the world. It is sponsored for the third year by the Tim Tebow Foundation and held for adults, ages 14 and older, who have special needs.
UMC of the Palm Beaches got involved after a team member of the ministry for special needs, called “Through the Roof,” heard about it on a local Christian radio station. The Tebow foundation provided the church with an $8,500 grant.
|Rev. Phyllis Parthemer's daughter, Ashley, and her buddy, Cary Collins, the director of music at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches. The Tim Tebow Foundation provided the church with an $8,500 grant to stage the big event.|
There is quite a bit of pageantry during the prom. Each guest will enter on a red carpet complete with welcoming, friendly paparazzi. Guests will receive VIP treatment, including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining stations, corsages and boutonnieres. In addition to dancing, there is a karaoke room. Each guest is crowned as a king or queen of the prom.
“We had such a wonderful time and it was such an awesome experience that we're doing it again,” said Parthemer, who is an ordained United Church of Christ minister.
"We are honored to be able to work with so many churches across the country and around the world to impact the lives of people with special needs," said Erik Dellenback, executive director of the Tim Tebow Foundation. Parthemer said the church has a tremendous rapport with the foundation.
An example of the impact the dance made last year is one young man who said anytime he's feeling down, he will pull the crown out and remember he is special in God's eyes.
“That's what it's about,” Parthemer said.
The prom complements the church's Through the Roof program for adults with special needs. Church officials began interviewing the parents of their special needs children in 2015 after senior pastor Kent Crow felt a tug on his heart for this kind of ministry.
“We really discovered that there is this lack of spirituality connection for adults with special needs,” said Parthemer, who has an adult daughter with special needs. “You can go to the ARC. You can go to Goodwill. You can go to all kinds of different agencies and they have wonderful programs, but we're specifically looking at the spiritual needs of the individual.”
About four to five times a year, the church invites the special needs community to come in and have a safe place to connect with one another doing activities like bingo, dancing and picnics. Attendance ranges from 50 to 150.
“We are opening our hearts…and we are letting them know that God loves them,” Parthemer said.
The church conducts twice-monthly worship services Sunday afternoons, designed for people with intellectual or developmental delays.
“This particular ministry is a highlight of my life,” Parthemer said. “Having this worship service where an individual can be who they want to be.” She recalls a 30-year-old—who is on the autism spectrum—attending a service and deciding to sit in the pastor’s chair in the sanctuary. The service continued with the man able to be himself.
“What a wonderful way to accept somebody and not chastise them,” Parthemer said. “That's what God wants us to share that God accepts who they are. Just because they are differently abled doesn't mean they don't contribute.”
Parthemer's goal for the program and Sunday afternoon services is to let the participants know they are loved. Then, because they are loved by God so much, they start to love other people. To that end, participants now are doing mission work, such as sorting food for a local food pantry and visiting hospitalized children.
A few openings remain for the UMC of the Palm Beaches prom. For more information about the Through the Roof ministry, or attending or volunteering at the prom, contact Rev. Parthemer at 561-214-0133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Ed Scott is a freelance writer based in Venice.