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Disneyland Dreams Come True for Special Students!

After many months of fundraising and an extraordinary response of community support, dreams will indeed come true for many Snoqualmie Valley special education students. Students from Mount Si High School’s Life Skills program and the District’s Transition Learning Center (TLC), are heading to Disneyland in California, from April 21-25, along with family members and school staff. This is a first-time adventure for the group and the most significant trip they have taken together.
Read the inspiring story below, shared by Mount Si High School Special Education Teacher Gerard Cline. Cline was instrumental in imagining the possibilities for this trip, planning, budgeting, promoting, coordinating the logistics and developing lessons to help prepare students for new experiences involving travel. We wish them a magical journey!
Mount Si High School -- Life Skills/TLC Disneyland Trip
by Gerard Cline, Mount Si High School Special Education - Life Skills teacher
“Twelve Mount Si High School Life Skills students, five Snoqualmie Valley Transition Learning Center (TLC) Students, two former TLC graduates, eight Mount Si High School peer tutors, 12 parents, seven family members, and 12 Snoqualmie Valley staff—58 people working together for one goal—to raise $50,000 in under a year for a five-day trip of a lifetime to the Disneyland Resort in California. It sounded easy enough when we first proposed the idea almost a year ago.
However, like a roller coaster from an amusement park, trying to raise over $50,000 has had its ups and downs. We started off slow ten months ago; we had our ups as everyone encouraged us to make this happen; we had our downs when our total earnings were only $8,000 after seven months of hard fundraising (filling us with doubts that this trip would even happen this year). And then, in the past three months, we sped to the finish raising the remaining $42,000!
This didn't just happen all by itself. It was due to the dedication, hard work, and many hours of fundraising by our students, their parents, and our staff, as well as the support of wonderful community members. A group of parents led by Lynne Palmisano (Life Skills parent) and Penny Johansen (TLC parent) met to come up with ideas of how to raise so much money. We spent the summer selling items at community booths in North Bend and Snoqualmie; we spent several cold Friday nights sitting in our booth at the Mount Si High School home football games.
At one such game, I was fortunate to meet a young boy, Aiden, from one of our middle schools. He looked over our booth, which had pictures of our class, and asked me about our fundraiser. After talking about my students and the trip, he reached into his pocket and gave me a $10 donation and said he hoped that we make our goal and have a good trip. Later that night, he walked by again, gave the booth a once over, and pulled out another $10 donation. As much as I have appreciated all the donations we have received, for me, this will always be the most memorable gift. This was a foreshadowing of the support we would receive from our own community throughout the school year.
In addition to individual donations, the North Bend Theater donated their space for a near sell-out crowd attending our Disney ‘Frozen’ Movie showing, which netted the group $1,300. Frankie’s Pizza not only donated pizza for the movie, they also donated $500 to our funds. The Mount Si High School PTSA and the North Bend Community Church donated spaces for us at their holiday bazaar events allowing us to bring in almost $700. Reporter Sam Kenyon wrote a wonderful article in The SnoValley STAR about our trip and helped us get the word out about our fundraising efforts.

In January, the Sno-Valley Eagles donated their facility for our auction where we received overwhelming support from the community in donations, dinner, entertainment, and attendance, bringing in another $13,000. Miranda Thorpe (Life Skills parent) wrote two wonderful grants helping us to receive a gracious gift of $15,000 from the Garneau-Nicon Family Foundation and $2,500 from the Snoqualmie Casino. The Mount Si staff did a ‘Pass the Mickey Hat’ at one of our building days and added another $500 to our account. Elizabeth Cambier (Interactive Therapy LLC) helped connect us with the Jordan Fund (founded by John Olerud – a former Mariner’s Player) who was thrilled to give us $4,644 which paid for the Disneyland entrance tickets for all of our students. We received an email from the North Bend Ace Hardware store and once they heard we were just $1,500 from reaching our goal of $50,000, they immediately sent us a check in the mail for that exact amount.
With just under a month to go, we could finally sit back a take a breath. We met our goal thanks to so many different people—people we work with, families, friends, and even many people who we have never met—coming together to help a great group of students meet their dream of going to Disneyland.
During all this fundraising, our students have been preparing for this trip. Alaska Airlines allowed us to visit their hanger at Sea-Tac Airport and board a similar plane to the one we will be flying in for our trip. Students were able to experience boarding and exiting the plane, to see how the seats felt, use the trays, try the lights, locate the bathroom (and see how small they were), and to see where the airline stores our luggage. The students also got to try out the pilot’s seat and see all the equipment they use. We then went into the terminal and experienced going through security, removing our shoes, placing items in the bins, walking through the metal detectors, and finding our gate. The Alaska Airline employees were wonderful with our students.
Visiting Alaska Airlines
On a field trip to Alaska Airlines at Sea-Tac Airport, students experienced
what it will be like at the airport and when traveling on an airplane.
At school, we are using this trip to motivate students with their reading, writing, and math goals. Students are researching online about all the choices we will have while at Disneyland. They are writing up reports (some mostly pictures) about the rides, food places, activities, and Disneyland characters. We plan to create a book with everyone’s reports and take them with us so students can refer to their choices and make sure we try everything they wanted while down there. We are making a mock Disney restaurant area with food choices and prices. Students will be learning to budget their food money and decide what meals they will purchase making their money last throughout the day (and not buy those $30 meals). The TLC made a mock airport security station for students to practice walking through like they did at our airport trip and numbered the seats in our community bus to practice finding our seats on the plane. We have also traveled to Seattle just to practice taking the monorail to get ready for the one in Disneyland.
We are ready, we have been ready, and we can’t wait until April 21st when we take off and finally realize the extent of our efforts this past year.
I know I speak for all of my students, their families, and the staff when I say thank you to everyone for your help in supporting our program through your generous hospitality, donations, encouragement, and well wishes for this trip to take place. We will be forever grateful for this wonderful community.”
Disney bound life skills students
Thanks for supporting this unique opportunity for Snoqualmie Valley students.