They sang, they danced, they played instruments and they acted out stories. And they were "All In This Together."
An Evening of Shining Stars — a talent show featuring special needs students from third through 12th grades — demonstrated the extraordinary talent and dedication of children with various disabilities. For weeks, the students rehearsed their acts in the auditorium of in preparation for the May 4 performance.
Sitting among their peers, the students laughed, joked with each other, and talked about classes and social engagements, much like any other group of elementary, middle or high school students. What normally sets them apart from other "mainstream" students is exactly what made them shine brighter when they took the stage last week.
"These children have worked so hard this past month through countless hours of rehearsal to make this the best show it can be," Director Sally Curci said in the program that was distributed prior to the performance.
Curci and her husband, Mike, have two special-needs children who participated in the "Evening of Shining Stars" talent show. In a brief speech before the show, Curci said she was proud of the students' dedication and accomplishments. She also thanked the numerous volunteers — children and adults — who helped pull the show together.
The creative acts were moving, inspiring and, in many cases, humorous judging by the reaction from people in the audience who cheered, stood up and danced, held up signs and even shed a few tears while watching the performers. There was a piano tune by a blind student as well as dances and songs by students with autism and Down syndrome. The witty master of ceremonies, Ryan Fay, was part stand-up comic and part game show host. He could give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money.
The show opened with an ensemble performance featuring the Black-Eyed Peas' song "I Got A Feeling," which had the crowd clapping and cheering. The evening concluded with another group performance called "We're All In This Together." The final number was fitting given the number of students, teachers, school officials, parents and community members who worked to make the show a success.
According to Curci, the funds collected through ticket sales will benefit the ARC of Union County.