Tim Tebow and the Vatican Join Forces to Give the Disabled a Prom Night to Remember

Tim Tebow poses with attendees at the Night to Shine prom event at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Feb. 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of Tim Tebow Foundation

Perhaps the last thing one would expect booming from the speakers of a Vatican-sponsored event is “Scream & Shout” by Will.i.am and Britney Spears. But the Catholic Church teamed up with sports celebrity Tim Tebow on Tuesday night (Feb. 4) and set formalities aside to give people with special needs a night to remember.

“I don’t think God gives us strength so we can lift things; I think he gives us strength so we can lift other people,” said Tebow, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 200-pound former NFL quarterback, in an interview with Religion News Service.

“That’s what we want to do. We want to lift other people and share the love of Jesus with them.”

The sixth installment of the event, called Night to Shine, took place for the first time in the Eternal City with the patronage of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a Vatican think tank aimed at promoting discussion and research on questions surrounding human life.

The Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum on the outskirts of Rome hosted the prom night, where people with disabilities had their photos taken on the red carpet, enjoyed a pizza-filled buffet and danced the night away with pop songs selected by a DJ.

People dance during the Night to Shine prom at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Feb. 4, 2020. RNS photo by Claire Giangravé

Wheelchairs skirted and drinks were dropped as everybody let loose on the dance floor, before each participant was named prom king and queen.

“It’s the first time we attend a party like this,” said Angela Agresti while pushing the wheelchair of her young daughter, who cannot speak, on the busy dance floor. They were invited by a friend and chose to come because “it seemed like an opportunity to be with others, which is not easy for them,” she said.

According to Tebow, the Hollywood glamour of the night speaks of a society that views red carpets as signifying importance and the people appearing on them as having a special value.

“Well, you are important on this night, you are valuable on this night,” he said, speaking of people with disabilities, “but more important than that, you are valuable to the God of this universe.”

The athlete drew public attention as a Heisman Trophy quarterback in college. He went on to play for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Today, he plays baseball in the minor leagues for the New York Mets organization after announcing his retirement from football in 2016.

Though Tebow’s professional football career was short-lived, he made a lasting impression. His custom of kneeling to pray during games turned into a national phenomenon and became known as “Tebowing.” His parents, Pamela Elaine and Robert Ramsey Tebow II, served as Baptist missionaries in the Philippines, so faith always played an important role in his life, he said.

“My life was changed when I was 15 in the jungles in the Philippines and I met a man with his feet on backwards,” Tebow said, adding that after seeing how the village scorned and cast out people with disabilities, he decided to help them and found his calling.

“I knew from that moment that yeah, I wanted to play sports and all this stuff, but I knew that my purpose was to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves,” he said.

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Source: Religion News Service