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  • About Jack Strickland

    Jack Strickland is a retired AP writer who was nominated by our newspaper for The Pulitzer Prize. His writing about Florida prisons, cancer victims, sports, and just plain folks is a special treasury for readers. He is active in the war against cancer. He, himself, is a survivor. As a reporter he covered many of the major stories in Florida. He lives in Gainesville where he is an advocate for cancer patients of all ages. Jack finds special joy in getting sports stars and teams involved in the care young cancer victims. He claims that the athletes benefit from the involvement as much as the patients. He says he managed to miss many tackles as a football player long ago, and learned that defeat can be temporary and serve as the foundation for success.
    Recent Florida Tales Content

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    Jack Strickland's Florida Tales...

    Nation’s handicapped got royal treatment as Tebow Foundation sponsored a special night

    March 10, 2015

    Gainesville

    By Jack Strickland

    It was a night to remember. Tim Tebow has done it again. He and his foundation made Valentine’s weekend very special for several thousand Special needs young men and women and their caregivers. They called it “A Night to Shine.”

    The Tim Tebow Foundation partnered with 44 churches in 26 states and 3 countries to provide a prom-like celebration for handicapped people. They pulled out all of the stops in putting together a celebration for people who usually have no opportunities to party.

    The party goers arrived in stretch limousines. One location delivered the honored guests in an elegant horse-drawn carriage. The limo drivers escorted the guests to a red carpet, lined with applauding supporters, which led into the party arena. A crown was placed on the head of each guest. On this night they were all royalty.

    The guests were fitted with party attire. The guys were dressed in tuxedos or business suits. The girls were given elegant gowns or formal party dresses. Barber’s groomed the guys for the occasion. Makeup artists gave the girls make-overs complete with party hairdos and manicures. 

    Tim Tebow personally shined the shoes of his guests at several locations he visited on the festive evening. A plane shuttled him from one location to the next. A video substituted for his presence at the venues he was unable to attend. The theme was the same at all locations. Tebow’s message was clear,  “Tonight you are all queens and kings. God bless you all.”

    In Jinja, Uganda the party goers painted their faces in keeping with the traditions of tribal leaders. They danced under the stars in the balmy night air.

    “Night To Shine” was reminiscent of the Special Olympics. Both programs provide opportunities for handicapped or challenged people to socialize with their peers. A special needs party goer in Gainesville summed up the experience.

    He said “Night To Shine” is a place where people who are different are safe to to be themselves without other people making fun of them. He said he was there to have fun and he was having the time of his life.

    Tebow apparently came up with the idea for “Night To Shine” when he was a student at the University of Florida. Kelly Faughnan was a Tebow fan. She was left with handicaps after brain surgery to remove a tumor.

    She was invited to be the guest of Disney World. They learned she wanted to meet her hero, Tim Tebow. Disney made it happen and invited her to schedule her visit when Tebow was in town for the ESPN College Awards Program. When they met they hit it off.

    Tebow invited her to walk the Red Carpet with him at the ESPN program. Faughnan’s parents went out and got her a nice new dress. Tebow and Faughnan had a great time. It was a moment to remember for both of them. It was also unforgettable to the spectators and members of the media who witnessed it.

    Jim Faughnan, Kelly’s father, later disclosed that the event was a life-changing occasion for his daughter. He said it inspired her to be positive and have confidence in herself. On the red carpet, on Tebow’s arm, her tremors and handicaps seemed insignificant and went unnoticed to the cheering crowd that greeted them. She and Tebow said they had a ball.

    Tebow seems to have modeled his “Night To Shine” program after that experience.

    By all accounts close to 7,000 people participating in the “Night To Shine.” They had a blast and came away inspired. Plans are underway to do it bigger and better next year. Who knows, in years to come Tebow’s program may rank with Special Olympics as a top program for our special needs population.