Gratitude and grace echoed throughout the McKinley High auditorium set as “Glee” troupers feted the show’s 100th episode Monday with a champagne toast and cake cutting ceremony.

The gathering on the Paramount lot brought together current and past cast members to celebrate the groundbreaking Fox/20th Century Fox TV series that has become “home” for adolescent outcasts— misunderstood jocks, theater geeks and math nerds—aching for a place to belong.

“I was so excited because it was a show for kids like me,” recalled Chris Colfer, who plays rosey- cheeked Kurt Hummel, of his gut reaction to reading the pilot script. “It was the first time that I had seen something for performance arts kids, for theater kids, and I was so excited for the world to have it.”

The 100th episode airs March 18, while the show returns from its winter hiatus on Tuesday. Star Lea Michele marveled at the show’s milestone moment.

“I remember reading the script and then reading ‘And then Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ starts to play,’ and I got chills,” said Michele, who plays drama queen Rachel Berry on the six-time Emmy award-winning series. “I still get chills to this day. I knew that this was a gem.”

Returning alums Dianna Agron and Heather Morris listened dewy-eyed as Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly waxed nostalgic about the show’s beginnings, recalling co-creator Ryan Murphy’s initial pitch meeting—“it was the definition of vision”— and the “magic” that was the audition process.

“Very few [have gone through] crazy high highs and some very challenging lows that you people have had to go through,” Reilly told the cast and crew, a nod to Cory Monteith’s tragic death last summer. “It has been extraordinary. ‘Glee’ on a good week is an amazing television show. ‘Glee’ on a great week is something that transcends the medium. It’s made me very proud to be a part of it.”

Co-creator Brad Falchuk paid special tribute to star Jane Lynch, who fulfilled “Glee’s” story arc need for a “bad guy,” and praised the behind-the-scenes crew for being a “community of storytellers.”

“Everybody is so committed to the greatness of the show,” gushed Falchuk. Speaking on behalf of Murphy and co-creator Ian Brennan, he credited the cast for bringing the show to life in a way the trio never thought possible.

“We started with you guys and we all kind of grew up together,” Falchuk said. “The most shameful, painful, horrible things that ever happened to you guys we took and we put it in the scripts and you brought it to life. You brought our pain and our shame to life. You guys took all that personal stuff and gave it to the world in a way that they could really hear it.”

While Colfer laughed nervously as he revealed, “I still feel like I don’t belong anywhere,” Michele calls the show “a great source of comfort.”

“I have grown throughout this experience so much,” she said. “When I look back at my life I’m gonna just choose to have my ‘Glee’ memories of high school be my memories of high school.”

Falchuk’s own high school experience was a happy one, with a “very tight group of friends,” but he still remembers feeling like an “outsider.”

“When you’re a teenager you’re so confused, you never feel that you belong,” he admitted. “And so I think the attempt with the show is to show this world of teenagers where everybody feels incredibly insecure and like they’re not special but where everybody is incredibly special. It’s that weird conflict where everybody feels like they’re nothing but in reality everybody is just so amazing. High school is the worst time of your life, because you have enough self awareness to know that you’re miserable and not enough knowledge to know you’re really not that miserable. What this show teaches us is that the more yourself you are, the happier you will be.”

(Pictured from left: Ian Brennan, producer Dante Di Loreto, Kevin Reilly, 20th TV’s Dana Walden, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy and Fox’s Joe Earley.)