A group of Ballinger students took the trip of a lifetime and had a day full of fun when they went to Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio.
A group of Ballinger students took the trip of a lifetime and had a day full of fun when they went to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio.
On March 23, 18 students and 16 staff and parents left for the adventure at Morgan’s Wonderland, a 25-acre theme park for special needs children. The $34 million park features more than 25 wheelchair accessible rides and attractions including a Sensory Village, Pirate Island playground, Music garden and an eight acre catch-and-release fishing lake.
Thanks to hard work from students with the Family Career and Community Leaders of America group at Ballinger High School and generous donations from businesses and individuals throughout the community, the day-long trip was a dream of a lifetime for the Life Skills students at BISD.
BISD Special Education Director Brian Arrott, coordinated the trip, which was the an idea proposed from an educator at BISD. Once the seed was planted, FCCLA students, who had put a handicapped swing at the elementary school last year, wanted to help.
“It was an ordeal and took a lot of planning to put this together,” Arrott said. “But it was worth it -
Previous to the trip, Julie Halfmann’s FCCLA class had a STAR Event Competition called “Event Planning” where two students from her class, Katie Michaelwicz and Peyton Dankworth , held a fundraiser to help raise money to make this trip extra memorable. They raised money for the snacks and some meals for the trip by selling more than 250 plates of chicken spaghetti from at the high school back in February. Both accompanied Arrott and the students on the trip.
“We were able to take the whole district with us thanks to the lunch that the FCCLA students did,” Arrott said.
The students that went on the trip ranged in age from 3 to 17 years old.
Peyton said helping on the trip was “life changing,”
“I learned how much we take for granted in your ability to go and do whatever you want to,” Peyton, a sophomore, said adding that they are already working on next year’s project.
They learned a lot and they affected a lot of students,” Halfmann said. “And they did something amazing for the special ed kids.”
Funds were also raised from an event held back in September when musician Brandon Fulton and Ballinger business owner Aimee Plant held fundraisers to raise funds to offset costs for the trip. Both helped with the “Burn Out” held in September - half of the funds raised went to the trip and the other half went to the Ballinger Fire Department. Plant also had a Wishing Well in her shop everyly Market, and proceeds raised there went to the trip.
“It was really cool,” Arrott said. “We had so much support from everyone.”
The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation in 2007 established non-profit Sports Outdoor And Recreation (SOAR), a non-profit to raise money for theme park construction and to provide for quality, professional management. Funding began with an initial gift from Gordon and Maggie Hartman in love and admiration for their daughter Morgan. Financial commitments for the $34 million park also came from the City of San Antonio, the State of Texas, charitable foundations, corporations, and individuals.
In the spring 2009, the Foundation broke ground for Morgan’s Wonderland on the former site of Longhorn Quarry in Northeast San Antonio. And it opened April 10, 2018.
Arrott said he hopes to take students again next year. The only down side of this trip was that the park was only open until 2 p.m. and the water park side was not open yet.
“The time we had their was wonderful - the teachers did a fabulous job and it made the day,” Arrott said. “The kids were having a blast. We’d love to go again.”