It is because of the kindness of our families and associates that we are able to spread awareness of our work. Such exposure often leads to our ability to grow and help even more people. Recently we were informed that one of our families went out of there way to get the 4 Paws name in lights in a very special way – by nominating Karen Shirk and our organization for a unique and precious award.
Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s only special needs theme park. The park’s vision is simply to establish a special place where smiles and laughter make wonderful memories with family members, caregivers and friends. To build a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging and allowing everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.
It was a labor of love created by philanthropist Gordon Hartmen, inspired by observing his daughter Morgan, a child with special needs, struggling to stay included with her friends while playing at a hotel pool. This observation evolved into a safe, colorful, 25-acre park that serves as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, friends, caregivers and the public at large. Morgan’s Wonderland is a place where “kids” of all ages and abilities can have fun, and from the very beginning, has admitted anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge free of charge.
Because Morgan’s Wonderland operates as a non-profit, it relies on the generosity of supporters to operate, just as we do. They host an annual gala to recognize the kindness of their donors, where they also take the time to honor 5 individuals who also make a difference in the special needs community. The public is encouraged to nominate candidates, and this year 4 Paws friends, the Pivonka family, nominated our Founder, Karen Shirk. Out of over 80 nominees, Karen was selected! Below is a portion of the email announcing her award:
Good Afternoon Karen,
It is my distinct privilege to advise you of your selection as an honoree for the Morgan’s Wonderland Walk of Fame!
Each year, a panel of judges selects five outstanding individuals from across the nation who have clearly distinguished themselves in helping those with special needs. As one of our 2013 selectees, you will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, Sept. 20, in San Antonio and again at the “Free to Soar Gala” later that evening at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind but built for everyone’s enjoyment. Please see the enclosure for more details.
In addition to recognition at the luncheon and gala, your name will be imbedded in a round, translucent “stepping stone” on our ¾-mile-long Walk and Roll Path that encircles our park’s scenic eight-acre lake.
The award was such a touching surprise! Karen and the rest of us at 4 Paws, would like to thank the Pivonka family as well as Morgan’s Wonderland for this incredible honor. We certainly cherish the sentiment, but also the opportunity to meet so many other passionate supporters of the special needs community.
At this point, Karen plans to make arrangements to attend the gala, so stay tuned for updates!