By Wendell Maxey, King Sports Information and Social Media Liaison
It was a night when basketball took a back seat to giving back.
Night to Shine, a prom for teenagers and young adults with special needs, was held at Grace Farms in New Canaan on Friday, February 8 and was a memorable event the King School Varsity Girls Basketball was excited to take part in. Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, individuals with special needs and disabilities from across Fairfield County attended the annual gathering with volunteer buddies and enjoyed an evening with friends they won't soon forget.
"We wanted to go to Night to Shine together because Night to Shine is a really amazing event where kids with disabilities and special needs have the opportunity to experience a real prom and know that people care about them," said Junior Diana Degnan, who has been a part of Night to Shine for the last two years.
Back during the holiday season, head coach Greg Fleming talked with Degnan and Senior Alonna Christy about the team coming together to give back to the community this season. Since Degnan was already planning to attend Night to Shine, she took the lead to share the impact she has seen the event have on people, and once the rest of the learned more, they were eager to get involved.
"The basketball team is a really close group of friends and I wanted to introduce them to Night to Shine because I knew everyone would have a great time and fall in love with all the special kids they are helping out."
Alonna Christy will always remember the evening as a time when her basketball family dished out the biggest assist of the season.
"I decided to be a buddy for Night to Shine because I wanted to help someone feel special. To me, Night to Shine is a time to celebrate people who have faced and overcome their disabilities," Christy explained.
"I am glad that I was given the opportunity to make this night memorable. The added bonus was the chance to come together with my teammates, who have become a second family to me, to help brighten the day for so many others. Being a part of Night to Shine was a huge honor, and it would not have been possible if Diana had not brought the opportunity forward to the basketball team."
Complete with an appearance on the red carpet and photo shoot, guests received the royal treatment at the prom, including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas, limousine rides, corsages and boutonnieres, food, karaoke, prom favors and a dance floor with a DJ. The crowning achievement of the night: each guest is crowned prom King or Queen. This year's Night to Shine event in New Canaan was just one of over 600 similar events taking place in all 50 states, and across 38 international locations in 23 countries. In just five years, Night to Shine has grown into a worldwide movement with this year's event including more than 200,000 volunteers serving more than 100,000 honored guests simultaneously on one night.
"I am very thankful to be part of something that brought an evening of fun, laughter, and memories to an amazing group of people. I know that without all of the support, events like this would not be possible, and everyone truly deserves a Night to Shine," said Sophomore Kate Lockyer.
For Coach Fleming, the Night to Shine experience was about more than just being part of the basketball team, it was a chance to give back to those with special needs and to make the King School community proud.
"I wanted the girls to give back, because whether they realize it or not, they are role models. To the younger athletes at King it is important that we, as the Varsity team, set a great example. We have a special group of girls in the program along with a tremendous group of families who have helped raise them the right way," Fleming said.
"I know how willing they are to help give back. It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved."