2016 Wall of Fame Honorees
Heather Astuto, McKinney, Texas
In 2010, Astuto founded the non-profit Especially Needed organization to offer year-round special events for special-needs children and adults in the McKinney area. The events include a fall carnival, A Special Time with Santa, an Easter egg hunt, the Super Owls summer camp and monthly birthday parties. She also worked closely with the Kiwanis Club of McKinney to start up the Angel League Halos T-ball team for younger children with special needs. Grants and gifts help Astuto stage the various events; however she oftentimes spends her own money to cover expenses in order not to disappoint families who really look forward to the various activities. She accomplishes all that she does as a single mom, caring for a 5-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old daughter with Down syndrome.
Kevin & Melissa Johnson, San Antonio
The Johnsons co-founded Project Angel Fares (PAF) in 2011 to enable deserving families with special-needs children living away from San Antonio to visit Morgan’s Wonderland. They started PAF after learning that many families cannot afford to travel to San Antonio because of bills for doctors, medicine, therapies, etc. So they started raising money to help pay for transportation, hotel and some miscellaneous expenses. Joining them in this effort are the employees of their business – Johnson Bros. Bakery Supply, which operates in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Over the past five years, PAF fundraisers and the Johnsons’ generosity have made it possible for many families with special-needs children from across Texas and the U. S. to experience Morgan’s Wonderland and make lasting memories together.
Susan Moulton, San Antonio
The tragic death of her 8-year-old son in a car accident in 2007 spurred Moulton to create the Will Smith Foundation, which supports programs like Kinetic Kids and Any Baby Can that directly impact the lives of special-needs kids. The foundation hosts annual events in San Antonio and in Hawaii that honor Will’s memory as well as the ranching legacy of B. L. Naylor, Moulton’s great-grandfather, and her father, B. Naylor Morton. Moulton’s giving to the Witte Museum makes her its largest donor to date, and her generosity will lead to the opening of the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery at the Witte next year. Moulton has said that the Will Smith Foundation is “my way of healing. I didn’t get to finish raising Will, so this is a huge part of my life.”
Mindy Scheier, Livingston, N. J.
Scheier is the founder of Runway of Dreams, an organization working with the fashion industry to bring mainstream clothing options to the differently-abled community. A fashion designer by trade, she was inspired to create the organization when her son, Oliver, who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, wanted to wear the same clothes as his peers. After months of research, Runway of Dreams created a toolkit of wearable technology, design modifications and customer-service-sensitivity training for brands to access and incorporate into their existing lines. This spring, Runway of Dreams partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to launch an adaptive version of the brand’s children’s line, the first time a major name-brand designer sold an adaptive version of an existing clothing line. Scheier aims to partner with additional brands and designers to make fashion accessible for all.
Dr. Barbara Whinery, Enid, Ok
Inspired by her son, Jake, who has Down syndrome, Dr. Whinery led a group of parents in the creation of the 4RKids Foundation in 2003. It serves children and adults with special needs in northwestern Oklahoma, and its mission is to promote awareness of individuals with disabilities and to provide them with vocational, educational and recreational opportunities. The foundation owns and operates a wheelchair-accessible miniature golf course that provides employment for special-needs individuals; the 2nd Story Employment Center, which also offers employment in document-shredding and product-manufacturing; and two gift shops where products from the Employment Center are sold by people with disabilities. 4RKids, which co-created a special-needs baseball league, annually hosts social events such as Valentine’s and Halloween dances.