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Gainesville Church Hosts 4th Annual Night to Shine Event For Disabled Teens

For 27-year-old Caitlyn Koval, Night to Shine is more than just a dance. It's a place where she can have fun and be herself.

"I couldn't imagine not having an event like this," she said.

Grace at Fort Clarke United Methodist Church hosted its 4th annual Night to Shine event in Gainesville last Friday, a prom night experience sponsored by the Tim Tebow foundation for people with special needs over the age of 14.

Despite being the fourth time Koval's come to the prom, she said she was still excited to dance and hang out with people more like her, and she wasn't the only one.

"Every year it just amazes me," said Elijah Thomas, a guest of the event. "Every year I get accepted."

Rick Thompson, pastor at Grace at Fort Clarke United Methodist Church, said, "There's no pretentions, there's no, you know, pride or anything. It's just everybody being real. Everyone being like we are when we're kids, you know."

For Koval, Night to Shine is about bringing awareness to the community about people with disabilities.

"I believe that people should be treated as equals, not as 'oh, she's in a wheelchair so she shouldn't be allowed to do this'," she said.
Tim Tebow's simple idea is now a major worldwide undertaking, with about 500 churches in more than a dozen countries taking part. This year about 175-thousand volunteers making sure it was a special night for 90-thousand young people.

Amanda is a reporter for WUFT who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Savana is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org