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On May 11th, the RISE School at The University of Alabama in Huntsville hosted their inaugural Rise and Shine Celebration at the beautiful Huntsville Botanical Garden. Nearly 200 supporters of the RISE School attended the gala to help raise funds to resurface their playground and make it more inclusive for their students who use wheelchairs and other assistive devices.

The RISE School is an early intervention preschool that was started in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama in 1974 with the goal of enriching the lives of infants and preschoolers with and without special needs by equipping them with the skills necessary to succeed in a school setting without an exclusively special education. By striving to maintain a 50:50 ratio of students with and without special needs and integrating those with special needs in with their typically-developing peers they are able to foster growth in all of their students, whether or not they have special needs.

The Bridgeworth Team enjoying the Rise & Shine Celebration.

The classroom facilities that they have on the campus of the University of Alabama Huntsville are top-notch, however, the playground is not as inclusive as the classrooms. Due to the mulch surface and many different edges and borders there are large areas of the playground that are not accessible by wheelchair or other assistive devices. The gala raised over $30,000 to help resurface the playground and make sure that the students play time is as inclusive as their class time.

Bridgeworth was one of the presenting sponsors for the 2018 inaugural event, and that is in no small part due to Brian Hinson, Managing Partner in Huntsville, and his involvement not only as an advisory board member for RISE, but also as a close personal friend to the family of Jerry and Amanda Lee. The Lee’s brought the school to Huntsville in 2013 after previously moving from Huntsville to Tuscaloosa to gain access to RISE for their son Jonathan who has Down Syndrome.

Sean charms the crowd at Rise & Shine Celebration.

Yet while the Huntsville Botanical Garden was as beautiful as ever, the food was great, and the cause was beyond worthy, there was really one main reason that people were there, and that was to hear from one of the stars of the Emmy Award-winning show Born This Way, Sean McElwee, and his mom Sandra McElwee.

Sandra shared stories of her struggle to get her son an inclusive education and how wonderful it is that we have a school like RISE that champions this inclusive education. And Sean… well, Sean came into thunderous applause like a Rockstar and never let the energy down. He told us about his dreams and how he made them happen. He educated us on “Seanese”; his collections of hilarious sayings that he turned into a t-shirt company. And most importantly he convinced us that “It Could Happen!” His slogan for the evening and belief that no matter your obstacles, your dreams can come true.

Below is an interview with Sean and his mom on our local television station.

Bridgeworth is proud to support the RISE School that helps provide a brighter future for our community’s little ones. For more information on RISE, please visit https://www.uah.edu/early-learning-center/classes/rise/rise-story or call 256-824-1000.


Bridgeworth is now a part of Savant Wealth Management as of 11/30/2023. Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois.