First Baptist Church on the Square hosts drive thru parade for “Night to Shine” event

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

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Convertibles, Jeeps and other cars lined W. Haralson St. as members of the LaGrange community took part in the Night to Shine event on Friday. Over 40 guests registered to participate in the event and dressed up in tuxes and prom dresses for the drive-thru portion of the parade. The event celebrates people with special needs and is held by host churches around the world simultaneously. This year’s event included a parade hosted by First Baptist Church on the Square and a zoom event that began at 6 p.m.

Beth Smythe, coordinator for the event, said the church had intended to work with Night to Shine to have a huge prom, but COVID restrictions caused the event to be downsized.

“The original situation was going to be to have a dance with prom dresses and the whole nine yards,” Smythe said. “Because of COVID, this is the second year in a row that they’ve had to do just the shine through drive-thru parade.”

Smythe said the drive-thru parade featured many gifts for the people participating.

“We give them corsages or boutonnières that volunteers have made. They get a crown or tiara,” Smythe said. “We can do pictures. They get star shaped cookies and a goodie bag with all kinds of neat Night to Shine items in it.”

Speri Lowery, a community member who helped with the parade, said it went smoothly.

“It was fabulous. It went really well. I think the turnout and the response from the people that showed up to help and to cheer on, it was all positive. Everything went really smoothly,” Lowrey said.

Smythe said participants were invited to a Zoom event after the parade where Tim Tebow and his foundation virtually hosted their portion of the event.

“They’re going to drive through and stop at every one of these spots,” Smythe said. “Then, they were sent an email link to where they’ll go home get on their computers and at 6 p.m. it will go to the program that Tim Tebow is hosting.”

Mary Grace Pelt, a staff member for the Exceptional Way in LaGrange, helped coordinate participants from the non-profit with cars from Mike Patton and LaGrange Toyota for the event.

“We have 14 of our 19 participants that are included and participating in the drive thru parade today,” Pelt said. “We are grateful to community members and to Mike Patton and Lagrange Toyota for loaning us the cars that our participants are able to ride in. We are excited about what’s to come for the rest of the evening.”

Lowrey said it was hard for her to pick a favorite moment, but she remembers two participants getting very involved with the celebrations.

“I think seeing the ones that really truly got into it and were dancing out the top of their Jeeps. There were two kids, a boy and a girl, that both stuck out to me because they were dancing to the music and seemed to really feed off the crowd. Just seeing the joy on their faces, I think that would have to be my favorite,” Lowrey said. She hopes to see the event return to in person once COVID settles down.

“We’re praying that next year we’ll be able to actually have the dance. The goal is when COVID settles for the whole event to be at the church.”