By Erinn Callahan | The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — Meagan Moss returned from her Walmart trip with a toy car to take her stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse for joyrides, a toy camera to capture the moments around her, and an extra dose of holiday cheer.
“She loves Christmas,” Amy Moss said of her 6-year-old daughter, a Life Skills student at Helena Park Elementary. “This was very special for her. She had a good time.”
Meagan joined 33 other Nederland Independent School District Life Skills students at the Twin City Highway Walmart in Port Arthur on Tuesday. Each student was given $50 to spend however he or she pleased, and teachers utilized the opportunity to teach life skills such as budgeting money and decision making.
“Not only was it fun, but it was a learning experience,” Johnna Smith, Helena Park Elementary Life Skills teacher, said. “It was an educational trip.”
After wrapping up their shopping spree, the students were treated to a luncheon — and a surprise visit from a certain jolly old man in a red suit — at the MCM Elegante Hotel in Beaumont. The event was part of the Christmas Lights program sponsored by the Glenda Jean Mostyn and Joe E. Moreno Educational Foundation, a Houston-based organization that focuses on encouraging the abilities of children with special needs.
The foundation was created in 2006 by Houston trial lawyers Amber and Steve Mostyn, in memory of Glenda Jean Mostyn, Steve’s mother and a longtime special needs educator, and Rep. Joe Moreno, who died in a 2005 automobile accident. Moreno was a close friend of Steve Mostyn’s, Monte Osburn, the foundation’s executive director said, and both he and Glenda Jean Mostyn harbored a passion for children with special needs.
This is the program’s 12th year, and its third year in Southeast Texas, Osburn said. The Mostyn and Moreno Foundation serves 12 districts across Texas, including Port Arthur ISD, Port Neches-Groves ISD, and Beaumont ISD.
“A lot of these kids don’t get to go to Walmart,” Osburn said. “This is the only Christmas they get.”
Osburn said the program is unique in allowing the students a choice in which gifts they receive. The foundation donates $50 for every Life Skills student in the district.
“We don’t buy a gift and say, ‘Here you go,'” Osburn said. “They get there and they want everything and the moon, but they have to figure out what they want that they can buy with $50.”
Rather than simply donate the money, Osburn accompanies the students to Walmart — a fact that is not lost on the parents.
“Not only did they donate their money, but they donated their time,” Moss said. “You could tell they enjoyed watching the kids shop.”