A big crowd turned out to support the STARS Scholarship Fund at the American Bank Center Thursday night, an event headlined by country music superstar Carrie Underwood.
Underwood was a big draw for the STARS Extravaganza, which was held to raise money for scholarships in South Texas. The evening began with a banquet at the American Bank Center, where some 800 people enjoyed dinner, a silent auction and recognition of the businesses that helped sponsor the event, which is now in its 11th year.
Tony Lamantia with L&F Distributors, who helped sponsor the night's event, said it was a community effort.
"Over 100 corporate sponsors, most of them from the Corpus Christi area, that really help us raise all the money," Lamantia said. "So we just kind of try to put everybody together, try to make it possible, bring the act in, try to coordinate it all; but it's a whole community project."
Last year's event alone raised $2.3 million for the scholarship fund, which helped more than 1,200 students with the costs of going to school.
Christina Franco is an example of one of last year's scholarship winners. Being a 34-year old mother of four presents its own challenges, and she needed the money for the thousands of dollars in school-related expenses.
"I was totally excited," Franco said. "I thought maybe it was just, oh well, it's worth a shot, and then when I got the approval, I was like, yay! Totally exciting."
Besides Corpus Christi, STARS Fundraisers are held each year in McAllen, Laredo and, for the first time this year, El Paso. More than $19 million has been raised for 9,100 scholarships in the last 11 years, and organizers hope to raise another couple of million dollars with Thursday night's event.
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