Posted: February 12, 2018
On Friday, February 9, a compassionate group of Hope International University undergraduate students dressed up and headed out to Crossroads Christian Church for Night to Shine, an unforgettable prom night experience for people with special needs ages 14 and older. Night to Shine volunteers spend the evening dancing, taking photos, singing karaoke, and worshiping God with their special needs “date,” each of whom is crowned Prom King or Queen as a way of celebrating their value in God’s eyes and His Kingdom.
HIU sophomore Julie Duda felt particularly blessed to serve at Crossroads Christian Church’s Night to Shine. "I’ve enjoyed opportunities to serve at similar events like the Special Olympics," Julie says. "As soon as I heard about Night to Shine, I jumped at the chance to be involved!"
"Night to Shine was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done!" Julie says of her experience. "I really felt the impact of this event towards the end of the evening when the worship band played This is Amazing Grace. Watching 300 individuals with special needs praise their Creator was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed. Being able to serve this population alongside my peers is something I will never forget, and something I encourage everyone I know to do as well!" HIU students Peri Goucher, James Atwood, Kristina Lutz, Jenny Rodriguez, Brianna Gamez, Natalie Valdez and Leigha Williams also volunteered.
Julie has worked with the special needs and developmentally disabled population for nearly 5 for years. She is majoring in Psychology of Child/Adolescent Development with an emphasis on special needs. "After graduation I hope to pursue a career with in the Special Education field. I’d love to work in a church setting doing ministry with this population, but I am also interested in working in a group home/day program settings."
Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is hosted by more than 500 churches in 50 states and 16 countries. Approximately 90,000 special needs guests are honored through the support of 175,000 volunteers worldwide.