About the Stars

To watch the Stars, visit our Stars Of Light YouTube Channel.

To watch the most recent peformance (April 2024): Morning Vibe

To see what the Stars and friends are up to for Mental Health Month: 

Expressing Emotions

To read about how Stars are instilling hope, please read
"Instilling Hope: Stories of Recovery 2024"

"Instilling Hope: Stories of Recovery"

Stars of Light is a program of Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc. that uses dramatic and visual arts to promote recovery, educate the public about mental illness and reduce the stigma that surrounds it. They enhance the quality of life in our community and across Winnebago and Boone Counties with artistic products that educate as well as entertain. Through the artistry of the director and participants, public fear of mental illness is alleviated and barriers are broken down to understanding and acceptance. Participants include people with mental illness and other community members.


  • Began in 1995 as a travelling theatre troupe, a program of Janet Wattles Mental Health Center.
  • Became affiliated with Rosecrance when Janet Wattles merged with that organization in 2011.
  • Partnered with NAMI Northern Illinois in 2013.
  • Celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2015.
  • Transitioned to Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc. in November 2017.
  • Evolved from being a live theatre troupe to a comprehensive program that includes all artistic venues and promotes recovery from mental illness through inclusion in the arts.


  • 308 tour shows entertaining and educating over 23,000 people
  • 19 videos and movies
  • Full-length play
  • Children’s book
  • American Association of Behavioral Health Award
  • JC Penney Golden Rule Award
  • United Way of Rock River Valley Volunteer Award
  • 14 art galleries
  • 7 radio shows in partnership with WNIJ Northern Public Radio on mental health topics
  • Videos on recovery, employment, depression screening and suicide prevention
  • You Tube Channel featuring personal stories, tour shows, musical pieces and art galleries


The Stars of Light regularly collaborates with NAMI Northern Illinois, Rosecrance, Shelter Care Ministries, churches, clubs and organizations on their projects.

Artistic Director, Steven F. Vrtol, III is a member of Actors’ Equity and Artists’ Ensemble Theater. He is employed by Stepping Stones of Rockford where he provides education and rehabilitation services. Producer, Mary Gubbe Lee is a Licensed Social Worker and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and volunteers for Stepping Stones.

Need a speaker or program for your club, church, school or other group? The Stars of Light are available for live presentations that are tailored for the audience. They are entertaining and educational. Presentations include:

  • Tour Shows – up to 30 minutes that can be followed by a “talk back” with the cast
  • Individual stories of recovery from mental illness
  • Music
  • Poetry
  • Discussions after viewing a presentation on You Tube
  • And more!

For more information or to schedule a performance, contact Mary Gubbe Lee at 815-721-2247 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

                         Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc.                     

Residential and Supported Services          Outpatient Counseling Center      
706 N. Main Street                                         4317 Maray Drive 
Rockford, IL 61103                                         Rockford, IL 61107
815.963.0683                                                  779.970.5605

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