Young people with special needs often miss out on some of the defining moments of adolescence. One of those is prom night.
All that changed on Feb. 10, when the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine event rocked Grace Community Church in New Canaan. The church partnered with STAR Inc., Lighting the Way, to bring young adults with special needs, their “buddy” peers, parents, and volunteers together for an evening of fun and celebration.
At the event was Joey McFadden of Wilton, who was buddied up with Ethan Hughes of New Canaan, who has Down syndrome.
“Ethan is incredible,” said Joey, who is a senior at Wilton High School. “He is very high-functioning and I was able to have a great time with him.” He described his buddy as “just a normal kid who likes watching TV and taking courses.”
Ethan, he said, “was very excited for Night to Shine. He could not stop raving about it.”

“It was a fantastic event,” Joey said. “It was great that they could give kids who don’t have the opportunity to go to their own high school prom to be king and queen of this dance,” Joey said.
Grace Community Church was one of 380 locations worldwide to simultaneously host the event where a personal message of greeting from Tim Tebow welcomed participants, who were encouraged to “have fun, dance the night away, and realize that each individual makes a unique contribution to make our world better for all.”
Guests were each recognized as kings or queens and enjoyed festivities including a celebrity-style red carpet greeting, crowning ceremony, stylish decorations, catered food and beverages, paparazzi parade, photo booth, dancing with a DJ, and karaoke.
Joey said participating in Night to Shine was a natural for him. Joey’s late sister Melissa had Down syndrome, and when he was very young she was involved with STAR. Joey’s father, Jack, is a former president of STAR. The organization serves individuals with disabilities and their families, from birth to their senior years. Services are provided in Norwalk, New Canaan, Wilton, Weston, Westport, and Darien.
“I grew up hanging around their events,” Joey said. “My Eagle Scout project was a garden at STAR. So I decided to have some more fun with them.”
Joey plans on majoring in business management at college, but he expects to continue being part of the organization. “I will always be available to them,” he said.
Click here to learn more about the Tim Tebow Foundation.
To learn more about STAR Inc., Lighting the Way, visit starct.org.
The official Night to Shine video from the Tim Tebow Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfSLyfFwDks.