2017 Wall of Fame Honorees
Dr. Ana Allegretti, San Antonio
Dr. Allegretti, a native of Brazil and an assistant professor of occupational therapy at the University of Texas Health Science Center, specializes in mobility solutions for children with special needs. For the past 10 years, she has focused on helping people with mobility impairments including veterans, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients and children with a variety of medical conditions. Her Go Baby Go project has provided modified ride-on toy cars for young children with disabilities. The cars enable the children to move themselves independently and participate in play activities, in many cases for the first time in their lives. In partnership with the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA, Dr. Allegretti provides the cars to the child and family at no charge, thanks to securing grant funding. She also played an important role in preparing for the opening of Morgan’s Inspiration Island splash park, fitting new waterproof wheelchairs to ensure safety and mobility for park guests.
Donya Catlett-Vise, Hot Springs, Arkansas
In September 2014, Catlett-Vise’s 7-year-old daughter Ali lost her fight to rare, crippling and incurable Batten disease. Once the disease was diagnosed, she chose to make each day the best for Ali, and that included a visit to Morgan’s Wonderland. Inspired by what she experienced, Catlett-Vise committed herself to building a living legacy for her daughter in the form of an accessible playground for special-needs children in Hot Springs. She didn’t have any experience in starting a charitable foundation, yet by sheer determination, she established the Ali’s Angels Foundation and recruited other passionate people to the cause. A site has been secured, and plans have been developed in pursuit of Catlett-Vise’s ultimate goal – construction of a fully-accessible, barrier-free playground called Ali’s Wonderland.
Bert Pfiester, San Antonio
Retiring after a distinguished career with AT&T, Pfiester in 2001 became executive director of Respite Care of San Antonio, an organization providing temporary care for special-needs children, thus giving the rest of the family a “respite” to keep the family unit strong and functioning. He expanded the scope of Respite Care to include a new emergency shelter and residential foster homes near the Respite Care campus. His relationship-building skills led to significant increases in the organization’s net assets, operating budget and endowment assets. In 2004, Pfiester became a single father to three siblings ages 5, 4 and 3 who were brought to Respite Care in crisis. He retired as Respite Care CEO earlier this year, yet he continues his advocacy for special-needs individuals in many volunteer roles such as vice chairman of the board of The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland.
Mary Scalise, Richmond, Texas
Scalise, a social worker with Houston’s Casa de Esperanza – House of Hope for Children, has been a foster parent for 53 children. She is also a single mother, taking care of six children – four of them adopted and three of them with special needs. She works tirelessly to enrich the lives of the children in her care, making sure they’re included in activities and outings such as trips to Morgan’s Wonderland, sporting events, rodeos and the like. At Casa de Esperanza, she is dedicated to assisting children in crisis as a result of abuse, neglect or the effects of HIV. She fights in court and urges governmental agencies to get these children the services they need for better lives. In addition, she advocates for parents who often have FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Cory Woodard, LaFayette, Georgia
A 27-year-old college graduate who happens to have muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair for mobility, Woodard in 2013 started a blog – Curb Free With Cory Lee – that has become an internationally-renowned source of information on accessible travel. He spends countless hours responding personally to queries from all over the world, speaking at conferences, appearing as a travel expert in national media reports and visiting destinations far and wide so he can communicate the accessibility of those locations. Thus far, Woodard has traveled to six continents, and his goal is to visit all seven. He has more than 50,000 social-media followers, many of whom write him to say they have visited the same destinations that he has because they are no longer fearful of what to expect.