Every child should be able to showcase their talents and abilities. That’s the mission behind Shining Stars Network, a nonprofit organization specializing in shining a light on the special needs community; In particular, they host performing arts shows and other inclusive events. The Shining Stars Network expands upon the Shining Stars Talent Show that first began in 2012.
The Shining Stars Network, founded by Sally and Mike Curci in 2016, culminates in an annual variety show each May. The show usually attracts an audience of over 1,000 people to the Union County Performing Arts Center. This special night is the result of special needs performers and their volunteer high school “buddies” rehearsing for four months. The end result is an unforgettable show with over 20 acts.
Other Shining Stars Programs
Of course, each annual talent show has a theme; the 2019 show was inspired by the movie, The Greatest Showman. Each act reflected the film’s themes of believing in yourself and that everyone has a unique talent.
Other Shining Stars programs include a Christmas show, which features holiday songs and audience participation; as well as the Shining Stars Ambassadors, a special needs basketball team who play against first responders from across NJ. “Shining Stars is about creating inclusive opportunities while promoting friendship and understanding within the community. Our Ambassadors program has been a tremendous success,” says Curci. “The response from the first responders we’ve played has been incredibly positive.”
The special needs community has always been a part of Curci’s life. The Cranford resident and her husband, Mike, have four children, two of whom have special needs. Sally is also a special needs teacher while Mike works as a television sportscaster and producer.
It’s their goal that everyone should have a chance to connect with the special needs community. “Our mission is to shine a spotlight on their amazing talents,” says Curci. “Everyone deserves a chance to shine. They’re truly our inspiration.”
Does your special needs child love to put on a show? If not, would you like to help them out of their shell and into the spotlight? If so, Camp Shine is a performing arts special needs camp for ages 10 and up. The camp focuses on team building, social skills and positivity through acting, singing and dancing. Campers play theater games, do daily fitness activities like yoga or Zumba, and learn original songs. “We’re creating self-confidence through the performing arts. Kids develop friendships, team-building skills and work cooperatively,” says Curci. “Kids come in like lambs and out like lions.”
The 2019 camp runs from August 19 to August 30, Mon – Fri, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Camp Shine is held at Fanwood Presbyterian Church in Fanwood. The two-week camp aims to increase self-confidence through performing arts. It culminates with a show on August 29 at 7:00 pm, where the performers take the stage for an audience.
Shining Stars Gala
For the first time ever, Shining Stars Network will host a “Reach For the Stars” Gala; This event includes dinner and a performance from the Shining Stars cast. The gala also serves as a fundraiser to help create more opportunities in the performing arts. The “Reach For the Stars” event takes place Wednesday, November 6 at the Park Savoy Estate in Florham Park. Guests can look forward to a cocktail hour, sit-down dinner, and Venetian hour. There will also be a silent auction and 50/50 raffle.
Those who wish to purchase tickets should email Mike Curci for details.
Finally, be sure to save the date for next year’s “Evening of Shining Stars” showcase. The event takes place on Friday, May 8, 2020 at the Union County PAC.
For more info on Shining Stars Network, Camp Shine or their Ambassadors basketball team, visit their website.
Feature (Top) Image (& Other Images): © Travis Johnson / Shining Stars Network