Helping children with disabilities soar

SVPSA Partner Sharon Krietzburg never intended to be the executive director of a nonprofit.

She was working part-time for one when the founders decided to shut it down. Krietzburg, now fully committed to the mission, decided to continue the work she was passionate about: providing once-in-a-lifetime vacations to San Antonio for children with disabilities and their families from all over the U.S.

Krietzburg leads Project Angel Fares, a nonprofit that gives families of children with special needs an all-expenses paid trip to San Antonio to visit Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed for individuals with special needs.

“It’s something I never expected. Sometimes my husband still laughs and says, ‘At your age, you finally found your calling,’” Krietzburg said. “And it’s seeing these kids do something they never knew was possible and their parents never thought was possible.”

Krietzburg recalls a young boy who visited Morgan’s Wonderland with his family thanks to Project Angel Fares. The boy was in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, which caused muscular tension and discomfort. Once aboard a special wheelchair swing, Krietzburg saw the boy’s face transform into peaceful bliss as he began rocking back and forth.

“I swear the hand of God came down and touched him,” she said. “The dad started yelling for his wife to come there to see it. Then he went back to his normal face, like a little old man scowl. But he had that moment of just pure joy.” 

Every year Project Angel Fares reviews applications and selects families of up to 5 members to receive round-trip airfare, three nights of lodging, a vehicle rental or accessible van rental, and an incidental gift card of $100, along with all park entry fees. The nonprofit also gives them admission to another local attraction, such as SeaWorld, the San Antonio Zoo or the Witte Museum.

“The family gets a whole vacation out of this, hopefully very stress-free,” Krietzburg said.

The number of families served depends on the amount of funding and in-kind donations the nonprofit generates each year. The nonprofit had its biggest year to date in 2019, when it brought 36 families to San Antonio. Currently, the organization is catching up on vacations rescheduled due to COVID-19.

Krietzburg grew up in Las Vegas, where she met her husband, Jack. After he sold a successful printing business there in 1998, the couple retired to New Mexico and built their dream home. Then, “the dream changed,” she said. The couple decided to move to San Antonio in 2012.

Krietzburg spent several years as a caregiver to her mother-in-law. When she passed away at age 97, Krietzburg began looking for ways to get more involved in the community. 

In addition to starting to work at Project Angel Fares in 2016, she became involved in other philanthropic efforts, including Impact San Antonio. She served on the board of Impact SA before stepping away from it due to the demands of her role with Project Angel Fares.

She took nonprofit management classes through the San Antonio Area Foundation, where she got to know colleagues in the nonprofit world.

She and Jack also became SVP partners in 2016. Being in the nonprofit world herself, she understands the value of the education that SVP provides to nonprofit leaders.

“A lot of the people that SVP’s been servicing now are people I went to class with. I love seeing that because I know how these people are just soaking it in to utilize these services,” she said. “Just knowing these people that are now being helped, it’s monumental.”