Participants drive thru a crowd of students cheering them on.

This year, Tim Tebow Foundation’s annual Night to Shine took place in the form of “Shine-Thru” events in churches all around the world. As in years before, Truett McConnell University (TMU) partnered with Hopewell Baptist Church in Gainesville, GA to celebrate people with special needs by creating a unique prom night experience. On February 12th, 2021, TMU students gathered in the parking lot of Hopewell Baptist Church to cheer and clap for nearly fifty cars full of guests as they drove through the event.

Upon entering the Shine-thru experience, guests were greeted by West Hall High School’s band and cheerleaders. As they drove through the parking lot decked with sparkling lights, the attendees stopped to receive crowns and tiaras, reminding them that they are kings and queens in God’s eyes. They were also presented with gifts and flowers, and each attendee’s name was announced through a loudspeaker. The cars then proceeded through a tunnel of TMU students, who clapped and cheered for each attendant, reminiscent of the red-carpet experience of years before.

As a first-time volunteer at the event, I was encouraged by the smiles brought to the kings’ and queens’ faces as they drove by. It was special to see how our actions encouraged them and how they were genuinely enjoying the experience. Guests waved eagerly as they “shined thru,” happy to be celebrated and cheered on to tunes like “Life is a Highway” and “Don’t Stop Believing.”

It was also special to witness the way each attendee arrived in their own unique style. Some poked their heads out of the sunroofs of their cars, some rolled down the windows and waved as they passed through, and others arrived in a limousine to enjoy the special night.

Because the night’s events took place entirely outside, this presented a unique challenge—the cold! In between cars full of guests, TMU students kept warm by practicing the wave and dancing to upbeat music. Well-known songs such as the “Cupid Shuffle” and “Church Clap” brought students together by pulling them into synchronized dance moves.

However, an advantage of the Shine-Thru event was that families were able to experience the night together, unlike in previous years. Throughout the night, excited moms and dads videoed their kings and queens as they passed through the tunnel of cheering students.

TMU students enjoying their time at “Night to Shine Thru”.

Second-time volunteer, Ryleigh Watson, said: “As I was getting excited for this year’s Night to Shine, I realized that, like everything, it would not take place the same way as last year. I began to wonder, ‘How can we pull this off?’ But when I arrived at this year’s Shine-Thru, I saw that even in the dreary weather, God had gifted all of us good cheer. My favorite part of the event was seeing each guest in their royal outfits. I was also amused by the competition of ‘who can cheer the loudest?’ the TMU Bears struck up with the local high school baseball team that also volunteered at the event.”

Chloe Henderson, a freshman, said that she was encouraged by the turnout of students who came to support the honored guests.

Sophomore Erica Sharp said, “It was incredible to see the beautiful smiles of the queens’ and kings’ faces. I’m so glad that we were able to love people even from afar.”

Abi-Ananiah Prudent, also a sophomore at TMU said, “The people of Hopewell Baptist Church, along with other volunteers bonded together to create a fun, welcoming, and kind atmosphere. It was encouraging to see a community come together to bless others. I’m grateful for the opportunity God gave us to serve at this year’s Shine-Thru.”

TMU students may have left the night with cold hands, but everyone was sure to have a warmed heart.


Anna is a TMU English major and student intern for the marketing and communications department.

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