By Michelle Colesanti

Helping others in need comes naturally to Marcia Minutello and her daughter Laura-Lee, who is Miss Wheelchair Florida USA 2014.  Last year they organized a homecoming dance, Night of a Thousand Stars, for those with special needs over 16 years old, along with their families and caregivers

The event was such a huge success that they and other organizers are planning another event this year. There is no charge for this event. Up to 225 guests can be accommodated so early reservations are recommended in order to attend.

The mission of this organization is to create an event for people who do not often see or participate in a dinner-dance in an elegant and formal way. Margo Ellis attended with her two special needs children last year. She is already looking forward to this year’s event.

“I would like to register my son and daughter again. We have planned on this  since last year. Everything is in order down to the nail polish for my daughter,” Ellis said.

This year’s theme is “The Courage Awards” and the guests will get to walk down a red carpet. They will then be interviewed by this year’s special guest host, ABC News Chief Meteorologist, Denis Philips.

There will be a few events leading up to the main event and the community is invited to participate and help raise funds.

The Noise Box, a group of young adults whose mission is to provide a concert venue for young bands and provide outreach into the community through donations from its proceeds, will host a concert at Christ Community Church, which is located at 1310 John Moore Rd. in Brandon on Saturday, September 13 from 6:30-11 p.m. Food will be available for purchase.

Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Grille on S.R. 60 in Plant City will host a benefit on Saturday, September 27 beginning at 7:30 p.m. There will be a cover charge of $5 to benefit Night of A Thousand Stars.

Organizers are also in need of gently used or new formal gowns and men’s wear for the guests. These donations can be accepted until Tuesday, October 14. Arrangements can be made for drop-off or pick-up.

For information on providing donations of formal gowns and men’s wear or to register for Night of a Thousand Stars, call 662-7555.

The actual Night of a Thousand Stars event will be held on Saturday, November 8 at Christ Community Church of Brandon located 1310 John Moore Rd.  It will begin at 7 p.m. and end at 10:30 p.m.  Please RSVP to 662-7555 or e-mail  For updates, join the Night of a Thousand Stars page on Facebook.  

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Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.