2017-02-01 / Features

GULF BREEZE shines for a night

By Pam Brannon

More than 170 folks with special needs are going to get their “Night to Shine” in Gulf Breeze the weekend before Valentine’s Day thanks to a Gulf Breeze High student that wanted to give his aunt, who at age 50 is confined to a wheel chair, the prom night she never had.

Brian Joyner, age 18, of Gulf Breeze has been a fan of Tim Tebow’s for almost 10 years now. He has also had a life-long love for his Aunt Donna. The two areas of Brian’s life intersected last year when he discovered that Tim Tebow also had a heart for individuals with special needs. “Brian heard about Tim Tebow’s foundation that sponsors a Night to Shine across the country to give special needs people a prom night of their own; and Brian was very proud and excited to know Tim Tebow also cared about people like his Aunt Donna,” Brian’s Mom, Carol Joyner, explained.

She said the only Night to Shine listed on the Tebow website for this area was Perdido Key United Methodist Church, so they checked to see if Aunt Donna could get signed up. “But by the time we heard about it last year it was too late for her to get in, so Brian said, ‘Why don’t we just start a Night to Shine in Gulf Breeze?’ And I thought, whynot? We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” Joyner laughed.

Joy Grace, one of Joyner’s and Brian’s helpers in this project, said, “No one realized what all was involved, but it is so worth it!” The Night to Shine prom will be Friday, Feb. 10 at the Community Life Center.

The teen began following Tebow when Brian attended football camp at the university where Tebow played. “You just never know when one small action – one seed planted – will make a real difference,even years down the road,” Grace said. “That day, the boys watched the football practice, and when players left the field no one stopped to talk to the boys except Tim Tebow. He gave autographs and took pictures. Brian became a Tebow fan– and Gulf Breeze ended up with a Night to Shine!”

Brian first decided to go to the Will Do group to get a grant. “The vote was so close, but he didn’t win the grant – it went to a first responder need,” Joyner said. “But that night still helped jump-start our efforts, since many of the ladies there said they wanted to give money – and they did!”

Brian wrote for permission to have the prom here and received a $4,000 grant for the project. “Between the Tebow grant and money from the Will Do ladies we thought we were set-to-go with plenty of money,” Joyner laughed, “We had no idea!”

When the 70-page manual arrived they saw that some of the supplies needed for 100 people would also be sent, including goody bags. “But we saw we needed prom dresses, tuxedos, flowers, crowns and tiaras,” Joyner said. “Our goal was to have 75 attend.” Their prom has grown to about 170 people attending with 350 volunteers, all of whom had to undergo background checks.

“We will have a room set upstairs with food and big screen TVs for the caregivers to watch the prom downstairs,” explained Grace.

They held a “boutique night” asking for donated dresses, since each lady attending gets to keep her dress. “We had 390 dresses donated that one night,” Grace said. Attorney Lane Lynchard donated a climate-controlled storage unit for a year in which to store the dresses. Gent’s of Pensacola is giving a deep discount for tuxedos. Ladies will be treated to free hair styling and make-up. Flowers will be silk. And each person will have a limo ride from one end of the complex to the front door’s red carpet.

Joyner said, “It has been a lot of work for all of us. But it has been so rewarding!” When asked if they are planning to do this again next year, Joyner emphatically replied, “Absolutely, yes!”

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