It Was ‘The Night of Their Lives’ at Bayside Chapel

Feb 13, 2019
Photo by: Supplied

At proms, one of the main events is the crowning of the king and queen. But on the night of Feb. 8 at Bayside Chapel in Barnegat Township, all the guests were kings and queens, as they all wore crowns and tiaras.

This prom was unlike most others, as its guests were teens and adults with special needs. The event was called “A Night to Shine,” and for the past five years the Tim Tebow Foundation has sponsored these events on the Saturday prior to Valentine’s Day in the U.S. and other parts of the world. This was Bayside’s third time hosting the event.

The church connected with the Tebow Foundation through one of its newest ministries, Wonderfully Made, which reaches out to young adults with special needs and disabilities. Bill Beuckman, one of the local event coordinators, said the former pro football quarterback’s foundation provides each prom with financial support, decorations and gifts for each participant, and step-by-step guidance to make the free event a success.

“We had 170 guests,” said Beuckman. “In those few hours, you’ll never see so much happiness, love, joy, happy tears and smiles.”

He said there were also approximately 350 volunteers, doing everything from food preparation and serving to tying a corsage. He said each guest came with a “buddy” who was on hand to assist with the person’s needs.

All the female guests got their hair, nails and makeup done, while the males were groomed and their shoes shined. They all wore corsages and boutonnieres. They were also treated to a ride in a limo, which arrived at the front of the building to a red carpet. Spotlights were shining into the night sky. 

“The looks on their faces, it was so beautiful to watch,” said Christine Varju, a stylist for Bleu Salon and Spa in Beach Haven which volunteered its services. “You could tell that for many, this was going to be the night of their lives. That’s why they call it ‘A Night to Shine,’ and we’re very happy to be a part of it.”

There was a respite area for family members, who enjoyed a catered dinner and could view the proceedings via video screen hookup. In addition, there was a room for karaoke, formal picture taking and another area known as a “sensory room.”

“That room featured a therapy dog,”  said Beuckman. “Some guests might find themselves a little overwhelmed with all this activity, so this gives them a chance to relax and chill.” 

The church’s sanctuary pulsated with upbeat pop/dance tunes featuring New Fresh Angle DJs, who would  play Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and then segue nearly 60 years later to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

“They were the DJs at our first ‘Night to Shine,’ and they want to keep doing it every year,” said Beuckman.

Linda Pugliese of Barnegat Township said her son Joey attended the inauugral event in 2017 and “couldn’t wait to come back again.”

“The church kept us updated throughout the year on when they were going to have the prom,” she said. “No way were we going to miss it.”

Joe Giberson, retired Stafford Township police chief, was volunteering at the event for the first time, extending his hand to greet guests.

“I can’t say enough of how great this is,” said Giberson. “Many people came together to make this a success. This is what community spirit is all about.”

 — Eric Englund

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