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Shopping spree gives special students real-world experience

December 7, 2018

Courtney Fowler waited eagerly for her 9-year-old daughter’s arrival at the Walmart on Dowlen Thursday morning so they could shop for Christmas gifts as part of the Christmas Lights Foundation event for special-education students hosted by the Mostyn Moreno Program.

It would be the first time for Fowler’s daughter, who was adopted from China 2½ years ago, to shop for Christmas gifts.

“It’s honestly overwhelming, the generosity this program has for these children,” Fowler said.

The program started, unofficially, 20 years ago as a brother and sister feel-good holiday movement where they would take special-education students out to shop. The Mostyn Moreno Program was founded in 2006. It relies on donations from businesses including AT&T, Walmart and others.

As part of the program, each child is granted a $50 Walmart gift card to shop for themselves, family members or friends.

“It isn’t just a shopping day, the students incorporate curriculum into the shopping,” said Tammy Diller senior director of special education for the Beaumont Independent School District. “They will have days where they go through the ads and make lists of what they want.”

Monte Osburn, executive director of the Mostyn Moreno Program, said the holiday shopping spree primarily gives students real-life experiences.

“It’s such a great event for, not only the students, but the parents as well,” Osburn said. “The students get to go out and put the basic everyday skills they learn to use. They have to budget and know how to behave in a different environment.

“Then the parents get to get out and see that they are not alone. Oftentimes parents become isolated because most of their time and attention is on the child that they forget they aren’t alone.”

Afterward, there is a a catered lunch at the MCM Eleganté Hotel.

The program is being extended this year to nearly 20 school districts across Southeast Texas and support more than 1,400 students. Hundreds of them will come from Beaumont.

“My guess is we are going to shop for board games,” Fowler said as she prepared to roam the aisles with her daughter. “She loves them and she loves to play with her family, so in a sense she’s shopping for all of us. It’s really a dream come true.”

erica.apodaca@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/erica_a10

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