By Kathi Nailling | Athens Daily Review
Original Story: http://www.athensreview.com/local/x853081961/Early-Christmas
ATHENS — Students from the Athens Independent School District were treated to an early Christmas on Monday.
The Athens ISD Life Skill class kicked off the Mostyn Moreno Foundation 2013 Christmas Lights Program with 57 children being treated to a shopping spree at Walmart. Each student had $50 to spend on anything they wanted.
This year, the foundation will treat 1,034 students from 12 school districts that will include Galveston, Southeast Texas and East Texas to the Christmas shopping spree and lunch. The children from Athens range in age from 3-years-old to high-school students.
After shopping at the Athens Walmart, the students, teachers and family members were treated to a special lunch at Athens Marina Cafe. The cafe, which was closed on Monday, opened just to provide lunch for between 75-100 people. Along with students, teachers and parents, some of the principals and administrators came to show their support.
Greeting the students at the Walmart was Executive Director of the Mostyn Moreno Educational Foundation Monte Osburn. Osburn said the foundation created the “Christmas Lights” program to facilitate the ability of children with special needs to gain useful experience in demonstration skills learned in a classroom.
Using funds provided by the Foundation, the students had the opportunity to exercise their math, decision-making and social skills, and to practice other important life skills with the guidance of their teachers.
Osburn said Jean Mostyn, one of the Foundation’s namesakes, was a compassionate woman serving children with significant impairments. She was motivated to empower this special group of children to achieve all they could. Mostyn died in 1996.
Because of her love for the students she taught, her son, Steve and his wife Amber, were inspired to create the Foundation. Steve and Amber are both trail lawyers in Houston.
Osburn said, “Steve and Amber Anderson Mostyn are passionate about making a difference for children all across the state. The desire to help those not able to defend themselves is reflected in their work.”
Osburn said the couple believes in giving back to the community.
Jean’s daughter, Jackie Zigtema, is Director of Special Education Services at the Henderson School District. Zigtema honored her mother by following in her footsteps in special education.
Zigtema said, “I try to make as many of the schools as possible.”
The Foundation has been providing children with the Christmas shopping trip for 12 years.
State Rep. Joe E. Moreno is the other namesake for the Foundation. Moreno, who died in 2005, was a long-time activist in helping to improve his community.
Zigtema said, “Rep. Moreno was a close personal friend to my family.”
Athens ISD Secretary Kasey Garcia said, “What is so neat about this program is we let the kids pick out whatever they want, and take the items back to the school and wrap them for Christmas The kids sometimes forget what they bought, and get to open it at Christmas. They get the surprise twice.”
Athens ISD Director of Special Education Sharon Reed said, “These kids are very special. They don’t think just about themselves. If they have a brother or sister at home, they always want to buy something for them. The money we have left, we purchase food baskets for some of the children. Their parents are always so appreciative.”