MCLEAN, Va. – More than 1,600 teens flashed their tickets at the entrance of a megachurch to join the largest under-age New Year's Eve party in the Washington, D.C. area on Monday night.
The all-night, drug and alcohol free event hosted by McLean Bible Church offered a safe yet fun alternative for teens who wanted to enjoy all the New Year's festivities but in a Christian environment.
Junior to senior high students were treated to a wide range of entertainment including illusionist and escape artist Brock Gill, The Price is Right Game Show, inflatable boxing & jousting, snow board simulator, sumo wrestling, SOAR Dunk Team, an ESPN Zone, movies, and the presentation of the Gospel message.
"We want to share Christ with people and this is a chance for us to share the good news of Jesus to a lot of students," said Dale Sutherland, director of student ministries at McLean Bible Church, to The Christian Post. "We also get to show the love of Christ by raising money and moving our kids' resources into the needs of Africa."
In addition to fun, students were educated about the effects of AIDS on children in Africa. Under the theme "My Resolution: Save Africa," students greeted the New Year by joining in the battle against the AIDS crisis.
The event encouraged participating teens to help raise money to build at least four orphanages in Uganda for those who lost parents to AIDS. Students fundraised through selling bracelets, t-shirts, and soliciting sponsorship from neighbors and local businesses ahead of the event.
Furthermore, $5 from every ticket sold was donated to the Home of Hope Orphanage in Africa fund. Overall, the fundraising goal is to raise $25,000 to build homes for the AIDS orphans.
In Africa, every 10 seconds a person dies of AIDS and another two are infected, according to World Help. In other words, 3 million people die each year from AIDS, or the equivalent of 20 fully loaded Boeing 747 planes crashing every single day for an entire year.
Moreover, some 3.2 million children are living with AIDS in Africa and every 15 seconds another child becomes an AIDS orphan on the continent.
Students at the New Year's Eve party were exposed to traditional African music, dance, and food in addition to American games.
"We have all kinds of plans with what will happen with the kids over the next couple of months [after the New Year's Eve party]," said Sutherland. "We are getting ready to re-shift and go towards another goal so we can keep our kids constantly targeted towards Christ's mission of reaching the poor."
McLean Bible Church has hosted a New Year's Eve party for teens since 1994. But this is the first year that student fundraising for a cause was incorporated into the event.