New Services at Morning Star School Will Help Special Needs Children Thrive

Kim, an 11 year old, loves to draw, visit the park, and swim in her grandparents’ pool. She is her family’s miracle, surviving a heart transplant at only 5 months old and later diagnoses of cerebral palsy and cancer. With her physical and developmental disabilities, Kim was struggling to keep up at her local public school until her grandparents made the decision to move her to Morning Star School two years ago.

Kim, an 11 year old, loves to draw, visit the park, and swim in her grandparents’ pool. She is her family’s miracle, surviving a heart transplant at only 5 months old and later diagnoses of cerebral palsy and cancer. With her physical and developmental disabilities, Kim was struggling to keep up at her local public school until her grandparents made the decision to move her to Morning Star School two years ago. 

“Here I feel she gets more individualized attention” says Kim’s grandmother, Linda. “She tells me she loves her school and we have been very happy.”

Morning Star School is a Diocese of Orlando school founded in 1960 to serve mentally, physically and emotionally challenged children with an emphasis on teaching them to love God and each other and to grow towards their full potential. A recent gift to the school from the Winter Park Health Foundation will help further provide for the students’ physical needs while equipping them with the tools to learn how to live independently. On April 25, a new health clinic was dedicated on school grounds as the first phase of this new development.

The clinic, which will provide for a variety of health needs of the students, is named for Mary Rumberger, a long time supporter of Morning Star School and a past president of the Morning Star Auxiliary. Mary passed away in October 2013 but was represented by three of her children at the dedication and ribbon cutting.

“Everyone that has come here this morning has a story about Mary Rumberger” remarked Kathy Harding (pictured at podium), Morning Star president. “Her legacy will certainly continue at Morning Star.”

In addition to the clinic, a large gathering room at the school will be transformed over the next six months to include an exercise room, demonstration kitchen, and learning center. The kitchen will be used together with a garden to teach the students how to grow, prepare, and cook healthy meals.

“The kitchen is very important” explains Bishop Moore High School president Tom Doyle. “It will teach the students healthy cooking and nutrition. They will develop those habits early on and as they go on into adulthood they will be able to live independently and become healthy people.”

The final phase is the creation of a transitional house where students preparing to graduate can learn the life skills they need to live independently or semi-independently. They will learn cooking, cleaning, laundry, and basic first aid skills. This will be an outreach program of Morning Star, reaching beyond the school walls and welcoming any student who needs to use this facility as they transition to adulthood.

“Anything we can do to help every student we encounter to have wonderful independent fantastic lives when they leave us is something we have to do” says Doyle.

Linda is excited about the new developments at Morning Star and what they will mean to her granddaughter.

“I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Morning Star. She does comprehend and no child wants to be different. Everyone wants to fit in. Everyone wants to feel like they’re the same and I think Morning Star does a very good job of doing just that.”