For Tim Tebow, “MVP” has a whole different meaning. Far from the limelight of the sports field, the 36-year-old Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback has long set his sights on helping the world’s “Most Vulnerable People.” The Tim Tebow Foundation, founded in 2010, works in 86 countries to transform the lives of orphans, people with special needs or significant medical needs, and those caught in the snare of human traffickers.
His favorite night of the year, Night to Shine, celebrates people with special needs, offering them a prom night experience, and takes place simultaneously around the world—in over 1,000 cities and 56 countries. (Next year, it will be held on February 9, 2024.)
The timing, the Friday before Valentine’s Day, is no accident.
“We wanted this to be a night where every person with special needs ‘Shines,’ and we wanted our love and God’s love for them to shine through,” Tebow said.
American Essence had the chance to ask Tebow about Night to Shine, what drives him in life, and the best advice he’s ever been given.
American Essence: Please tell us about an inspiring moment or person at Night to Shine that will stay with you forever.
Tim Tebow: I could tell you thousands and thousands of stories just from our first Night to Shine! One that really stands out to me is a mom coming up to me and telling me that her daughter will never get married. She will never have kids. But tonight, at Night to Shine, she felt like she was a princess. Another is the first time we ever hosted a Night to Shine, one sweet girl came down the red carpet in a wheelchair with everyone cheering her on. She had so much fun and loved the experience so much that she came back down again, this time walking with assistance! It was such an inspiring moment.
Another impactful moment was when I got to meet an incredible young boy at a Night to Shine in Haiti. Frantzky had the biggest, sweetest smile, and he danced with so many friends and family that night. Unfortunately, not long after that, he got very sick. Hospitals in Haiti had turned him away before due to him having special needs or simply perceiving him as too complicated to care for. At the third hospital he ended up at, he did not receive the level of care he needed and unfortunately passed away. It was such a shocking reality that it’s our job to love people no matter their circumstances, and that it’s up to us to help other people see the God-given worth and value of every life. I have a painting of Frantzky in a room in my house where I watch movies and football games. That room is somewhat of a break where I can relax for a moment or get caught up in sports, but Frantzky’s picture is displayed as you exit the room as an instant reminder to keep the perspective that there is so much more significance in life than just games and movies.
AE: How has the idea of prom—a quintessentially American tradition—translated to the many different countries where Night to Shine is held?
Mr. Tebow: That’s a great question. One of the ways we’ve described Night to Shine is as a worldwide prom for people with special needs. A lot of countries aren’t familiar with the term “prom,” so we also call it a worldwide celebration for people with special needs. Even though other countries might not be familiar with the idea of a prom, walking down a red carpet, or being crowned as kings and queens, what’s really cool is that once they see it in action, they totally get it—regardless of where they are. A lot of that has to do with our awesome Night to Shine team that walks alongside churches every step of the way. It’s also really neat to see different countries and cultures embrace Night to Shine by bringing in traditions and experiences that are culturally relevant to them, too.
AE: You have a great sense of urgency about the causes that your foundation supports. What drives you in life? What gets you up in the morning, ready to take on the world?
Mr. Tebow: …