From left, Machall Hoops of Lima, Ohio Northern University senior Shane Meek and Ohio Northern University freshman Ben Schneider dance during the recent "Night to Shine" event.
From left, Machall Hoops of Lima, Ohio Northern University senior Shane Meek and Ohio Northern University freshman Ben Schneider dance during the recent "Night to Shine" event. (photo submitted)

LIMA — “I can’t tell you how many parents have come up to me over the years and told me that this was the best night of their child’s life.”

That was ONU Sociology Professor Keith Durkin in the aftermath of the 6th “Annual Night to Shine Prom Event.” He helped coordinate it.

This is an event tailored specifically for special needs youth, who, said Professor Durkin, often never would otherwise experience a Prom or Homecoming event.

The event itself is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. (Tebow was a Florida State University Heisman Trophy winner and played professionally for a time at quarterback. He’s been quite vocal about his Christianity and used his profile to help a number of charitable endeavors start up.)

Professor Durkin said that Tebow’s “video feed” to the volunteers this year said, among other things, that at a time when our country seems so divided, this event is an excellent way to bring people together with a common cause.

There were some 750 people at the Lima event. This included 182 special needs folks and their families. And there were also some 250 volunteers, including a good number of them from ONU.

The professor said the volunteers represented students from such organizations as: Greek Life, the ONU football team, Religious Life, Nursing, Education, Criminal Justice, to name a few.

And the professor said the students couldn’t have been more professional about it, or more enthusiastic for that matter. He said this is yet another extension of the “culture of serving” at ONU.

The evening included dinner at the Marimor School for special needs people in Lima. Then limousines were dispatched to ferry people to Lima First Church where the dance was held.

There was a disc jockey, dancing, general camaraderie. Each youth had a “buddy” for the event and the professor, who is also a Sunday School teacher at the church, said it all went smoothly.

The professor added that Lima was one of the original 44 sites for Night to Shine. It has now expanded to 650 churches in 50 states and 24 countries. Last year saw some 100,000 “honored guests” and 200,000 volunteers. Professor Durkin added that everyone benefits from the event, not only the honored guests and family members, but the students, and other volunteers, who are reaching out to help.