Each year the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards highlight the spirit of civic engagement among New Jersey’s 1.5 million volunteers and provide Jefferson Awards medals in 22 categories of volunteer service.
The 2018 New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards presentation ceremony and celebration of volunteerism was held at the War Memorial in Trenton on the afternoon of Saturday, June 2, 2018. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things were recognized as Honorees in two dozen categories of service at this event. In addition, the achievements of over 5,000 New Jersey Students in Action were highlighted and top schools were saluted.
Cranford resident Sally Curci was honored with a prestigious Jefferson Award for her volunteer work with the special needs community, which has been a big part of her life for many years. Blessed with four beautiful children, two with special needs, Sally has not only been an advocate for her own children, but a tireless advocate for other families as well, giving special needs children an opportunity to flourish on many levels. Sally is a firm believer that no child should be limited by their disability, but encouraged by their abilities.
That mindset led her to create Shining Stars, a 501(c)3 non profit that shines the light on the special needs community through the performing arts. The annual “Evening of Shining Stars” talent show — in its 7th year — drew an audience of over 1,000 to the Union County Performing Arts Center this past May and starred 30 special needs performers along with their volunteer high school buddies.
“It was an amazing experience for everyone involved,” said Curci. “Hearing the participants tell me it was one of the best nights of their lives is something I will always treasure. The success of the show just further proves to me that our children can do anything they set their minds to.We just need to give them the opportunities to do so.”
Curci also founded Cranford’s first Young Athlete Program, a weekly program which introduces and develops skills for future Special Olympics competition. “There is nothing like seeing a child conquer a skill after much trepidation. To see their smiles and sense of accomplishment on their faces is priceless.”
Sally also is a soccer, basketball and tennis coach with Special Olympics for the New Jersey Hawks. Sally was a committee person for Autism Speaks, “Walk Now For Autism”, for many years, as well as founder, captain and top fundraiser for the community team, “Cranford Cares for Our Kids.” She also participated and was a top fundraiser for the National Down Syndrome’s “Buddy Walk of South Plainfield.”
Another proud accomplishment for Sally, along with her husband Mike and two teenage children at the time, was writing and producing, “What’s On Your Mind: Let Me Inside”, a song devoted to families raising a child with autism. The song is still featured on iTunes, with all proceeds donated towards autism research.
Sally — a special needs teacher at Academy 360 in Livingston, was also recently honored as Region 1 “Educator of the Year” selected by ASAH for her accomplishments in and out of school. Among her other awards are the Union County Women of Excellence Award, Cranford Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award, the Spirit of the Arc Betty McGhee Award presented by the Arc of Union County, and the Arc of New Jersey Distinguished Service Award.
The Jefferson Awards were established in 1972 as the official recognition program of the United States Senate. They are considered America’s highest honor for public service and volunteerism. In New Jersey the awards are also the official recognition program of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Volunteerism, administered by a partnership that includes the NJ Office of Volunteerism, NJ Advance Media, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, and corporate sponsors, such as PNC Bank, PSEG, BD and others. For more information on Shining Stars and their performing arts program, visit their website at www.shiningstarsnetwork.com or mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.