Three years ago, Sally Curci created the Shining Stars variety show for special needs students. Little did she know it would turn into one of the most popular and anticipated events in Cranford each year.
With another sold out and exhilarating show fresh in their memory, the Cranford Board of Education, lead by Superintendent Dr. Gayle Carrick, recently honored Curci with a special proclamation for her inspiring work and dedication to these students and their families.
“Sally’s desire to showcase the talents of our special needs students has been immeasurably successful in making an entire community embrace and realize the talents and potential of these very special individuals,” said Dr. Carrick.
Curci, who spends months organizing and preparing her talented cast and crew, leaves no doubt it’s been a labor of love.
“I began the show three years ago as a forum for the kids to shine. Every child deserve the chance to have a spot in the limelight.”
The 2014 version of Shining Stars was held at Hillside Avenue School, and featured 30 acts with singers, dancers and several piano solos. This year’s theme was “Anything is Possible When You’re Unstoppable” — and they proved it again, with the audience dancing, laughing, crying and singing along to one show-stopping number after another.
For Curci, it’s the culmination of hours upon hours of rehearsal, which the students love. And when the stage lights go on — the smiles on their faces are brighter than the spotlight.
“My first and foremost goal is for each child to feel like they are a true star, inside and out, and that with hard work and dedication, they too, can achieve anything. My secondary goal is to convey to the audience that all children have abilities, and to change any preconceived notions otherwise. Usually the first timers come in without high expectations, but when they leave, they are blown away with all the talent and energy in the room. That is what I strive for each and every year – to make each show better than the next. I want everyone to have a good time and walk away feeling “Wowed.”
Proceeds from the show go to the Arc of Union County, a non-profit organization serving those with developmental disabilities for the last 60 years. Because of the success of this year’s show, Shining Stars will be able to donate close to $4,000.
While Curci has so many people to thank, including her assistant director Beth Wolfe, the Cranford Elks, Cranford Jaycees and all the PTA’s for their generous donations, she’s just happy that these special students have a chance each year to show off their gifts, making everyone who attended happy that they were a part of something so special.
“I am truly humbled by this honor and want to sincerely thank Dr. Carrick and the Board of Education for their continued support of the Shining Stars program.”