Tickets On Sale Now for “An Evening Of Shining Stars”

8th annual special needs talent show set for May 3rd

One of the area’s most anticipated events — “An Evening of Shining Stars” — featuring members of the special needs community, will take place on Friday May 3rd, 2019 at 7:00pm.

Founded by Cranford resident Sally Curci, the 8th annual showcase will feature another talented cast ready to sing and dance their way into your hearts as they share their amazing talents. And for the second consecutive year, the “Shining Stars” cast will take the professional stage at the beautiful and historic Union County Performing Arts Center — where many of America’s biggest names have performed. Last year, more than thirty special needs performers and their high school “buddies” amazed an audience of over 1,000 while singing and dancing to many of the greatest hits through the decades. This year’s show is titled “The Greatest Show” and will feature songs from Broadway, Movies and even a few original songs.

“We are so excited to give our special cast the chance to perform at such a great venue once again,” noted Shining Stars Founder and Co-director Sally Curci. “Last year was electric. The audience was wonderful and our performers were just amazing. Our audience has grown each and every year, and our cast continues to grow as we spotlight talent from around Union County and beyond. It’s going to be another night to remember.”

When the lights go up, the “stars” will shine, entertaining with solo acts and full cast dance choreography — which is one of the highlights of the show. “It was like being on Broadway,” said Shining Stars President Mike Curci. “It’s a classic venue. Our performers showed how inspiring and talented they are, and the audience support was simply fantastic. We can’t wait to do this again in May. Everyone is very excited.” “We continue to be inspired by their talents every day,” noted Shining Stars Co-director Nicole Greene. “This a wonderful chance for our cast to not only learn new songs and choreography, but to build all-important self-confidence and self-esteem, which they take with them away from the stage.”

Adam Fleissner, who has performed in every Shining Stars show, can’t wait to take the stage again, as he prepares to sing a Broadway tune. “We meet so many great people,” said Fleissner. “We get new people in every year and everyone has a good time meeting each other and performing. All of it is just fantastic.”

Join us for our 2018 Shining Stars Talent Showcase on May 4th at the Union County Performing Arts Center at 7:00pm. And take a look back at our 2017 video featuring our original song “If You Believe”


Tickets are on sale now at www.UCPAC.org/events. Find the Shining Stars logo, select your seats and you’ll be in for one of the best nights of the year!

“An Evening of Shining Stars” is presented by Shining Stars Network, Inc., a 501(c)3 non profit organization based in Union County that shines the light on the special needs community by creating inclusive events such as their annual talent show, dances, and their Ambassadors basketball team, a special needs team that travels to play local first responders and other organizations to help promote inclusion, friendship and understanding. SSN will also host their 3rd annual two week special needs performing arts camp — “Camp Shine” — from August 19-30 in Scotch Plains-Fanwood. For more information on any of these programs or events, email shiningstarsnetwork@gmail.com.

Shining Stars Rock the Stage at First Holiday Show

The Christmas spirit was shared by a near sellout audience of 600 at the first-ever Shining Stars Christmas Spectacular, featuring a talented cast of forty who performed to a standing ovation at Union Catholic High School on November 30th.

It was the first time in the seven-year history of Shining Stars that they took the stage to spread holiday cheer and as usual, the talented special needs cast and their high school “buddies” rocked the house with songs from the season, including a rousing rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” — performed with a five-Santa band, who also delighted the audience with their own dance number.

(All photos courtesy of Lori Fleissner Photography)

A highlight of the evening was “The Twelve Days of Christmas” where every audience member was invited to participate. Each section had their own “cue card” and happily stood up and shouted their line throughout the song, which was led by the entire Shining Stars cast.The audience enjoyed not only sing-a-long favorites such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but Dan Montealegre and Gina Berry rose to the occasion to perform a beautiful version of “O Holy Night” followed by a Christmas version of an original song, “If You Believe” — a staple of the Shining Stars shows.

From the opening number “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” — to the crowd-pleasing finale “Feliz Navidad,” which had the audience dancing, the Stars proved once again why they are such a big draw.

As usual, talented emcee Ryan Fay had the crowd engaged and laughing from the start.

“It was another amazing night,” said Shining Stars founder and show director Sally Curci. “Our talented cast was wonderful and the audience was terrific. It was a great way to start the holiday season.”

“In only two short months, our cast put together another special show,” noted Co-director Nicole Greene. “They continue to rise to the occasion each and every time and we couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments.”

With a sleigh hand-crafted by Jim Parlapiano and sets designed and built by Amy Downey, the stage was set for a holiday extravaganza. The costumes were once again designed and created by Johanna Hathaway.

Special thanks goes to the administration and staff of Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, especially Principal Sister Percylee Hart and Associate Principal Dr. Karen Piasecki who welcomed the Shining Stars cast with open arms. A big thank you as well to Crayon Club President Audrey Davis and the students at UC for all of their assistance in making the show such a memorable event.

You can catch highlights of the show posted on the Shining Stars Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shiningstarsnetwork1/.

The Shining Stars cast are already in rehearsals for their 8th annual “Evening of Shining Stars” — which for the second straight year, will be on the grand stage at the historic Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway. Over 1,000 audience members enjoyed Music Through the Decades last May, and their upcoming show promises to be another spectacular event. Titled The Greatest Show, the Stars will sing and dance their way through music from Broadway to movies, with several original compositions also being performed live for the first time.

“Our cast members inspire us each day, and we are also inspired by the kindness and generosity of our local community, who continue to support our stars at every show,” noted Shining Stars Network President Mike Curci. “The energy at each show is amazing, and we hope that even more people come to see The Greatest Show in May.”

Tickets for An Evening of Shining Stars –The Greatest Show – are on sale now at www.UCPAC.org/events.

Shining Stars Network would like to thank all of their incredible volunteers, parents and cast members for making 2018 another memorable year. 2019 promises to be another great year highlighted by their May 3rd show, their second Christmas Spectacular and the Shining Stars Ambassadors basketball team which travels the state to play first responders and other organizations. The Ambassadors will put their undefeated record on the line against the Cranford PBA on Friday March 15th at 7:00pm at Cranford High School.

2019 will also mark the third year of Camp Shine, an intensive two-week performing arts camp for individuals with special needs slated for August 19-30, 2019 at the Fanwood Presbyterian church in Fanwood. For more information on the camp, please email shiningstarsnetwork@gmail.com.

Based in Cranford, Shining Stars Network is a registered 501(c)(3) non profit organization that shines the light on the special needs community by creating opportunities in the performing arts. To find out more about SSN, view videos and articles, or to donate, log on to ShiningStarsNetwork.org.

Investors Foundation Donates $1000 to Shining Stars

Everyone at Shining Stars Network would like to extend our sincere thanks to CEO Kevin Cummings and the Investors Bank Foundation for their generous donation of $1000.00 towards our continuing goal of creating opportunities in the performing arts for the special needs community.

Cranford branch manager Juan Rengifo is pictured with the entire Shining Stars Holiday Show cast at rehearsal. More than 30 special needs cast members and their high school buddies will be singing and dancing to the songs of the season this Friday, Nov. 30th at the Performing Arts Center at Union Catholic High School at 7:00pm. Get your tickets now at shiningstars.booktix.com

Jockeys to face Ambassadors on Sept. 24th. 2018

The Shining Stars Ambassadors special needs basketball team will face members of the Monmouth Park Jockey colony in a benefit basketball game on Monday September 24, 2018 at the Maple Place School in Oceanport.

The Ambassadors travel the state to play first responders and other community teams to promote inclusion, friendship and understanding, while sharing in the fun of playing basketball. Money raised will go to Shining Stars Network, a 501(c)3 non profit that shines the light on the special needs community by creating opportunities in the performing arts and sports. Tickets are $5. Maple Place School is located at 2 Maple Place, Oceanport, N.J. Doors open at 6:30pm. Game time is 7:00pm.

For more information on Shining Stars Network, go to www.shiningstarsnetwork.org.

SHINING STARS MAKE TRIUMPHANT DEBUT ON UCPAC STAGE

Special needs talent show draws 1,000 for 7th annual event

It was truly their night to shine! With a crowd of over 1,000 packed into the historic Union County Arts Center, the Shining Stars cast put on a spectacular performance, singing and dancing their way through “Music From the Decades” — which featured songs from the 20’s to today while totally engaging the audience at every turn. The show, which starred 30 special needs individuals from around Union County, took the stage with their high school volunteer buddies and rocked the house from start to finish.

The well-conceived concept kept everyone engaged throughout the show, topped off by the finale, which featured Gloria Estefan hits Get On Your Feet, Conga and Turn the Beat Around, where the cast joined the audience for the exciting finish. U.C.P.A.C. Executive Director Brian Remo could not have been more impressed with the cast performances. 

“This event and these amazing young artists have inspired not only the surrounding community, but each other, in what was truly one of the most memorable nights this stage has ever seen.” Each decade was represented by several songs, where the entire cast took part in a big dance ensemble. The show was highlighted by solo acts from each member of the special needs cast — who performed an array of hits, from the Beatles “All You Need Is Love” to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way “ to Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” — which garnered one of many standing ovations throughout the evening. 

The 7th annual “Evening of Shining Stars” was an idea conceived and developed by Cranford resident Sally Curci, who back in 2012 had the idea of giving local special needs children the opportunity to shine on stage through the performing arts by putting on a full show. Since then, the show has become a must-see event, leading to their recent record-breaking show. 

“While all of our previous shows have been wonderful, we wanted our cast to have the chance to perform on a professional stage and the Union County Performing Arts Center was the perfect venue.,” said Sally Curci. “I’m so proud of every one of our stars. It was like being on Broadway, The crowd was amazing and the performances were wonderful. It was a perfect night.” 

Master of Ceremonies Ryan Fay was masterful again, entertaining the audience in between acts while making sure the show moved smoothly. Ryan has been the emcee from the beginning, and his wit and humor continues to charm the audience. His brother, Sean Fay, had everyone singing to Sweet Caroline in another great moment. Along with Director Sally Curci, the show was guided by Co-Director Nicole Greene, Sally’s daughter, and Assistant Director Angie Sandoukas, who was a former volunteer “buddy” who returned to join the Shining Stars staff.

All three are special needs teachers. “This was an incredible night,” noted Nicole Greene. “For many of us, it’s our favorite time of the year. The performers put their hearts and souls into rehearsals for months, and to see them shine on stage even brighter every year is absolutely incredible. It is amazing to see how passionate the audience is, and how proud the performers are of themselves. I feel so lucky just to be a part of this experience.” 

The show’s Executive Producer and Shining Stars CEO, Mike Curci, is a television broadcaster and producer who also runs the day-to-day operations of Shining Stars Network. a 501(c)3 non profit organization which shines the light on the special needs community through the performing arts and various events throughout the year. But no, doubt, the annual show is the biggest highlight. “I am so proud of every one of our cast members and the entire Shining Stars team of volunteers, said Curci. “Each and every one of them shares in the success of this show. They truly inspire us every day. It was an emotional night watching them perform in front of a big crowd at an iconic venue. They proved they belonged there.” 

Shining Stars would like to thank the U.C.P.A.C. staff, who helped them through the process of putting on a show of this magnitude.  “It was incredible to see this show come to life after four months of rehearsals,” continued Mike Curci. “Everyone worked extremely hard. I was especially moved by the audience response. They were wonderful. We’re honored that so many people came to see our stars. And of course, this couldn’t have been done without the generosity of our sponsors and boosters who helped make this happen and our dedicated parents who helped in so many ways. It was a night we’ll always remember.”

Members of the cast include: Joe Bacque, Gina Berry, Alexis Cassino, Alejandro Colon, Brian Curci, Courtney Curci, Aidan Dolan, Andrew Downey, Ryan Fay, Sean Fay, Adam Fleissner, Bret Fleming, Aidan Flynn, Jessie Gaeta, Elizabeth Garcia, Meghan Lamar, Caitlin Madden, Brian McAuliffe, Dan Montealegre, Josh Moreines, Simone Palermo, Melissa Pearl, Gerard Russomanno, Alyssa Santos, Andrew Seiler, Nicole Serkin, Garrett Smith, Dominick Vito, and Mark Zulauf. This year’s volunteer high school “buddies” were Johnny Bush, Diego Colon, Tim Eimer, McKenna Flynn, Abby Heller, Kayla Hooey, Judith Kikikis, Mark Lynch, Kelly McAulliffe, Izzy Pinto, Peter Roefaro, Kelly Ryan, Hannah Scepkowski, Leah Scepkowski, and Sarah Scepkowski,  Special thanks to Jamie Greene, Beth Wolfe, Jim & Kathy Parlapiano, Amy Downey, Johanna Hathaway, Christina Smith, Maria Palermo, Joe Silano, Derek Thorn, Andrew Iocavano, Megan Convery, Megan Santarelli and all the parents who contributed their time and efforts, and thank you to Lori Fleissner for her outstanding photography. 

Shining Stars Network is also excited to announce the return of Camp Shine, a two-week performing arts camp for special needs individuals ages 10 and up. The camp will take place at the Fanwood Presbyterian Church from August 21-30. Please email ShiningStarsNetwork@gmail.com. for more information. 

Sally Curci Honored by State of N.J. for Volunteerism

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 shiningstarsnetwork@gmail.com

Ambassadors to Face Cranford PBA in Basketball Game Friday Night

One of the most exciting basketball games of the season is coming to Cranford this Friday night, April 13th, when the Shining Stars Ambassadors special needs basketball team takes on the Cranford PBA in a charity fundraiser.

The fun and excitement will begin at 7:00 pm at the Cranford High School lower gym. Suggested admission fee is $5. Admission is free for all special needs individuals. 

The Ambassadors are part of Shining Stars Network, a registered 501(c)3 non profit which creates events to shine the light on the special needs community.

Shining Stars is well-known for their annual “Evening of Shining Stars” talent show. Now in its 7th year, the 2018 show — which will take place on Friday, May 4th — will feature “Music Through the Decades” with songs from the 1920’s through today. Rehearsals are in full swing and the cast is as excited as ever to perform for the first time at the beautiful and historic Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway.

To buy your tickets, go to UCPAC.org/events, find the Shining Stars logo and select your seats. To advertise in the show program, email shiningstarsnetwork@gmail.com.

And you can get a sneak peak of the show when the “stars” perform at halftime of Friday’s Ambassadors game. For more information on Shining Stars Network, go to www.shiningstarsnetwork.org.

Cranford Elks donate $1,000 to Shining Stars

Since the beginning of the Shining Stars talent shows seven years ago, the Cranford Elks have been supporting our mission of helping the special needs community shine. And the Elks are right beside us again, generously donating $1,000 to this year’s show as we look to make it bigger and better than ever.

Incoming Exalted Ruler Richard Brightman and Treasurer Jill Mathews present a check for $1,000.00 to Director Sally Curci and the Shining Stars cast.

Special thanks goes to every member of the Elks, including Incoming Exalted Ruler Richard Brightman,  Exalted Ruler Richard Clark, Treasurer Jill Mathews and John Vicci. We couldn’t do it without them!