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Mr. Strong Foundation donates FUNctionable Clubhouse

May 28, 2024

Functionable Clubhouse ribbon cutting

Functionable Clubhouse ribbon cuttingStudents, teachers, administrators and friends of the Mr. Strong Foundation gathered for a ribbon cutting at the new FUNctiononable Clubhouse at Nina Harris ESE Center on Thursday morning.

The Mario and Luigi-themed murals, paired with other brightly painted walls and furnishings, made for a cheerful backdrop for the happy crowd, which included Raymond from the Tampa Bay Rays. The FUNctionable clubhouse is a custom-designed, innovative space where special-needs students experience multisensory play.

"I initially thought they did not understand the level of physical engagement our students have with their surroundings," said Nina Harris Principal Jacque Cassidy. "Now, to watch our students working with enthusiasm and smiles is heartwarming. They are fully engaged in these learning moments. And the materials and supports are accessible to our students, which makes all the difference."

Michelle Morales, founder and president of the Mr. Strong Foundation, started the nonprofit organization in 2011 to bridge the gap for special-needs children by granting scholarships and providing access to therapies not covered by insurance. A special needs mother herself, Morales recognized the unique financial and emotional challenges faced by families raising children with exceptional needs.

Michelle’s son is among more than 150 special-needs students at Nina Harris ESE Center. 

The creation of the FUNctionable Clubhouse was made possible with support from the Lightning Foundation, 100 Women Who Care, St. Petersburg, the Rays Rowdies Foundation, the Be Fierce Foundation, Morales Family Trust, the Sunday Bacon Foundation, Whatnot, ATMakers Inc., Evan and Jaime Longoria, and other private donors.