SAN ANTONIO – Five compassionate individuals who have distinguished themselves in helping those with special needs will be honored at the 12th annual “Celebrating a World of Inclusion Gala” on Friday, Nov. 12, at new Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, 23400 Cibolo Vista, on San Antonio’s northern outskirts.
The 102-acre camp is the newest member of Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative, beneficiary of the gala’s proceeds. Non-profit Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative coordinates planning, fundraising and communications for world-renowned Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and related ventures designed with the special-needs community in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment. For more information, visit www.InclusionStartsHere.com.
The honorees – Tommy “T-Bone” Bounds of San Antonio, the late Joey Cavazos of San Antonio, Jennifer Dantzler of Atascocita, Texas, Dr. Elvia L. Espino of Fort Worth, Texas, and Sergio Zarate of Brownsville, Texas – will be saluted at the gala, and their names will be placed permanently on the Wall of Fame in the heart of unique, 25-acre Morgan’s Wonderland in Northeast San Antonio for thousands of guests to see.
“Each year, we shine the spotlight on five heroes who’ve gone above and beyond to befriend the special-needs community,” said Gordon Hartman, head of Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative. “These extraordinary individuals chosen by a panel of judges from nominations received from around the world clearly exhibit qualities such as caring, determination, sacrifice and, above all, inclusion.”
Gala festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. and include a seated dinner and a super silent auction, plus a live performance by explosive cover band – “Gun Powder Soup” – with dancing on a lighted dance floor.
Centerpiece of the gala will be a 7 p.m. “viewing party” for an hour-long TV special highlighting all the Ultra-Accessible™, fully-inclusive endeavors of Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative that include Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, Morgan’s Inspiration Island splash park, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports complex and projects in progress such as the Multi-Assistance Center at Morgan’s Wonderland, or The MAC, scheduled to open in 2022.
The live TV broadcast also will include a special performance by the Morgan’s Wonderland Inclusion Fusion Choir and an inspirational performance by ILL-ABILITIES International Dance Crew based in Montreal, Canada, and comprised of seven dance members from around the world.
The Wall of Fame honorees’ noteworthy contributions to the special-needs community include the following:
Tommy “T-Bone” Bounds, San Antonio – Bounds originated the Teed Off at Cancer charity golf tournament to provide hope and comfort to children battling cancer and their families. Now known as Hope Hits Harder, the tournament has grown into one of the largest charity events in San Antonio. Proceeds support patients at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Methodist Children’s Hospital and University Hospital. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bounds provided hot meals to more than 1,000 families with immunosuppressed children who could not leave their houses because of the coronavirus.
Joey Cavazos, San Antonio – Cavazos, 59, lost his battle with cancer in May of this year, but not before he staunchly supported Camp Discovery, a special summer camp for children with cancer. He served as executive director of VisionWorks, the non-profit he established to support Camp Discovery and related programs. These include Camp Brave Hearts, an in-hospital program simulating a summer-camp experience; Camp Common Ground, a weekend camp for families with a child who has both a cancer diagnosis and a special need; and Camp Firefly, a bereavement camp for families suffering the loss of a child to cancer. Cavazos’ legacy of love continues with the help of hundreds of Camp Discovery volunteers including many health care professionals. Approximately 75 percent of Camp Discovery volunteers are cancer survivors, with more than 50 percent of them being former campers.
Jennifer Dantzler, Atascocita, Texas –In 2003, Jennifer founded Including Kids Autism Center, which has served over 1000 families. Using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, Including Kids serves clients ages 2 through 30 with full-time and part-time programming. This includes after-school classes, parent training, autism-friendly community events, adult seminars, babysitter-training courses, workshops on various topics and young-adult programming including vocational training. Jennifer also leased a house for use in teaching young adults with autism to live independently.
Dr. Elvia L. Espino, Fort Worth, Texas – Inspired by her son Alex, who has autism, Dr. Espino has become a strong advocate for the special-needs community in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. She founded a ministry called Mom on a Mission, spearheaded creation of the All-Abilities Program at I-Fly Indoor Skydiving and established a year-round aquatics program in Irving called Aqua Stars. She has helped guide organizations like American Airlines, educating their staff and unions on special-needs inclusion. She is also working with Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to create a sensory room at the airport for travelers with special needs.
Sergio Zarate, Brownsville, Texas – Zarate co-founded Down by the Border, which is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons with Down syndrome. In so doing, he has enabled the special-needs community to enjoy adaptive sports like soccer, kickball and baseball. In honor of his daughter, Zarate led the effort to pass Zariah’s Law, ensuring that every child with a disability has access to adaptive sports programs. During the pandemic, his organization’s pop-up clinic helped vaccinate 6,000 individuals with special needs, and each Christmas every child in local public schools with a special need receives a gift from Down by the Border. Zarate also proudly serves on The Arc of Texas’ board of directors.
Offering more than 25 wheelchair-accessible attractions, Morgan’s Wonderland is located at 5223 David Edwards Drive, a half-mile west of IH 35 at the intersection of Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks Drive. Specifics about the park’s days and hours of operation, admissions and special events are available at www.MorgansWonderland.com or at (210) 495-5888.
Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, a recreational oasis situated not far from the J. W. Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa, offers summer-camp-type experiences year-round to campers of all abilities. It features more than 20 major elements including ziplines and a challenge course like none other. Special adaptations enable those with special needs to enjoy all the camp’s thrilling attractions just like everyone else. For more information, visit www.MorgansWonderlandCamp.com, or call (210) 866-4200.
Ultra-Accessible™ refers to removing both physical and economic barriers that confront children and adults with special needs. This means that those with and without special needs can come together in a fully-inclusive environment for fun and a better understanding of one another.