John Corbett stars in the latest Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “A Smile as Big as the Moon,” playing Michigan high school football coach and special-education teacher Mike Kersjes, who helps his special-ed students attend Space Camp in 1989.
Based on a true story, the movie follows the journey of Kersjes, fellow teacher Robynn McKinney (Jessy Schram) and their students as they pave the way for special-ed participants to attend the Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
When Kersjes realizes how attending the program would greatly enhance the self-esteem of his students, he faces opposition to his plan, which includes school administrators saying it’s too expensive and Space Camp officials, led by Dr. Deborah Barnhart (Cynthia Watros), being reluctant at first to change the way things have always been done and allow the special-ed students to participate.
Then there was the $50,000 that had to be raised to allow the students to attend as well, along with almost a year’s worth of training to prepare for the camp, including swimming and learning to work as a team.
Many of the special-ed students are portrayed by young actors who are special needs children themselves, with Down syndrome, ADD, autism, dyslexia, etc.
“Mike Kersjes changed a lot of lives,” Corbett said in a news release quote from an interview at the Space Camp. “As a teacher, he made a great impact on the special-ed kids he worked with. But he also broke down barriers for countless other kids. Once his class made that first ground-breaking visit to Space Camp, the doors were thrown wide open.
“Thanks to a foundation he set up, more than 3,000 special-ed kids have been able to come here and experience the wonder and magic of space exploration.”
If you’d like to enter the Hallmark Hall of Fame Space Camp Sweepstakes, in which one lucky family can win a weekend adventure at Space Camp in Alabama, visit www.hhofsweepstakes.com.
“A Smile as Big as the Moon” airs at 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29 on ABC.
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