Go Back

The Evolution of Tribute to the Stars

To honor 30 years of Cara’s work to eradicate poverty, we are sharing the stories behind the rituals, milestones, and celebrations that have helped build the spirit of our community. In this story, Jesse Teverbaugh, Cara’s Director of Student & Alumni Affairs, shares the origins and impact of our signature Tribute to the Stars event.

Why We Do This Work

Tribute to the Stars is one of our most mission specific and identifying events that we host. It reminds us of why we do this work, why we’re all here, and who the true stars are.

Breakfast of the Stars, Late ’90s

In 1993, Cara held its first Breakfast of the Stars event in the basement of Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The event became a great success, but over the years, it started to lose traction due to it being hosted on a weekday with an early check in time of 7:45am.

“Around 1999, we said, you know what, how about we switch it to a luncheon, until the luncheon time created another hurdle for guests of the event. Those who had to get back to work before the ceremony was over were missing student stories. Over time, it became an inconvenience. People really wanted to support this cause; it was still gaining traction and we were growing. So we had to kind of take into consideration the inconvenience.”

In 2003, Kelly Stienert, former Cara Director of HR & Administration, came up with the idea of having the Celebration with the Stars event reflect Cara’s signature Morning Motivations.Motivations was born in 2002 and was starting to get traction. It was starting to become a staple. People were coming to be able to mingle with the participants, see a bit of their life, and what a day of Cara is like. What better way than to let them witness Cara Motivations. So we had one little circle in the middle of the room with maybe 10 or 15 participants to kind of simulate morning motivations.

Motivations at Old St. Patricks Church, 2006

The brunch setup took our Celebration with the Stars event to new heights and laid the foundation for the Tribute to the Stars name and structure we have today. The event honored and engaged Cara’s community partners with Good Neighbor and Employer of the Year awards, while rallying financial support from guests to support Cara’s mission. 

Palpable and Powerful

Jesse describes the importance and impact the Tribute to the Stars event has had on Cara participants over the years aspalpable and powerful.

They [Cara participants] are the most important aspect of this organization. I mean, without the participants, you know, it’s really nothing. The importance of this event is to celebrate the participants and give them all the credit that they deserve. The other purpose is to really dispel some myths, right? So to give them an opportunity to speak their own truth, to get up in the middle of people and tell their stories, you know, and dispel these myths about anybody who might have been coming from the Department of Corrections or someone who’s gone through domestic violence or someone who’s dealt with substance abuse, and all of those kinds of things — dispelling the myths about people being their mistakes.”

Tribute is an opportunity to give attendees an understanding that they [Cara participants] are human beings just like you, whose story could be your story too had you made a left and not a right, or had you not had the privilege and the opportunity that you were afforded that a lot of the other segment of the population did not.

That’s why the name Tribute to the Stars is so apropos because it literally focuses on the true stars, the true heroes, and the true stories of what Cara is all about and what Cara means as ‘friend.’

Participants at Tribute to the Stars, 2014

You Can’t Replace That

“When we started inviting participants to attend it, they would be on 10. They were bouncing off the walls after the event. When they have this big venue and big room and the attention is on them, they’re sitting and people coming are eager to have a conversation with them and ask them about their life and challenges, it empowers them. That’s one of the biggest pluses that come from Tribute to the Stars.”

“Also, the participants who do speak get to invite their families and their loved ones. When they get to stand up in front of their kids and their parents, and all the people that they had let down in the past and can stand in their victory and not boast and not brag about it, but just be proud about it in front of their family. Oh man, it’s just amazing. It’s palpable, you can see it, you can feel it, you can taste it, and you can touch it.

“You know, it’s the greatest thing. I can just remember one participant after the ceremony coming up to me and saying, you know, ‘Thank you Mr. Jesse for giving me my mother back.’ You can’t replace that.

– Jesse Teverbaugh, Cara’s Director of Student & Alumni Affairs

Your support ensures more rituals, milestones, and celebrations will be celebrated with our community over the next 30 years. Plus, for the month of September, all gifts made in honor of our 30th Anniversary will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000 thanks to a generous gift from The Owens Foundation. Please click here to make a gift.