Scottsdale’s STARS celebrates 50th anniversary

Posted 6/9/23

STARS, a nonprofit dedicated to serving individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities, celebrated its 50th anniversary Fiesta with an event that brought together the community, …

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Scottsdale’s STARS celebrates 50th anniversary


STARS, a nonprofit dedicated to serving individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities, celebrated its 50th anniversary Fiesta with an event that brought together the community, supporters, and the individuals the organization serves.

This milestone celebratory event marked a half-century of dedication to changing lives through opportunity, highlighting the organization’s unwavering commitment. The event, held at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, was attended by hundreds of supporters, including community leaders, staff, volunteers, and the individuals and families who have benefited from STARS’ programs. The celebration featured live entertainment, tributes to supporters, including founder Mary King, and heartfelt speeches that highlighted the organization’s achievements over the past five decades.

When asked about his most memorable takeaway from the event STARS President & CEO Dave Henderson said in a press release, “STARS 50th anniversary Fiesta was proof that the true measure of a successful gala is not how much money is raised through auctions and paddle-raises, it’s the bountiful love shared by those who gathered to celebrate a thriving nonprofit.”

STARS Operations Director Claudia Chavez said in a press release, “It was truly a magical evening. One I won’t ever forget.”

Marni Hirshman, STARS director, said, “The room was filled with love and warmth.”

STARS’s journey began in 1973, when parents of people with disabilities imagined a place where their children could find purpose, friendship, and community. These parents, mostly mothers, formed Las Madrinas, an auxiliary group to raise money for the organization in Scottsdale. Led by Mary King, Las Madrinas created the organization that would later become what is now known as STARS. Through the years, STARS has been a beacon of hope and support for individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities. It now offers a full array of programming, ranging from day programs to training and support designed to help participants achieve full-time inclusive employment and has also evolved and expanded its services, focusing on employment first models, helping individuals of all abilities to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and develop marketable skills toward employment.

In honor of the celebration, STARS created two visual displays for their 50th Anniversary which included a commemorative book and a slideshow video showcasing the essence of STARS and the immense joy experienced by its participants. Event attendees were each gifted a copy of the STARS 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book that provided a nostalgic look back upon the delightful journey through five decades of cherished memories, achievements, and stories of remarkable individuals who have made a lasting impact, as well as a look into the future growth of the organization. The book’s cover art image of a rocket and stars with ‘make way for a brighter future’ message was created by Tommy, a STARS participant.

The 50th anniversary celebration was a testament to the organization’s enduring impact and the collective efforts of its staff, volunteers, and partners, gaining recognition by Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega, who issued a proclamation of May 25, 2023, as ‘Golden 50th STARS Day.’

Visit for more highlights from STARS’ 50th Fiesta anniversary event.