John Corbett (‘Sex and the City,’ Hallmark Hall of Fame movie November Christmas) stars in the inspiring story of a high school football coach and special-education teacher who worked to achieve an impossible dream — to take a class of special-education students to NASA’s Space Camp — in the new Hallmark Hall of Fame film, A Smile as Big as the Moon, premiering Sunday, January 29 at 9 pm ET/PT on the ABC Television Network. The movie is based on the memoir of the same title, written by teacher Mike Kersjes with Joe Layden.
Space Camp is a competitive education program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Even though it’s designed for gifted science students, Mike, a special education teacher and football coach at a Michigan high school, decides participating in the science program would do wonders for the self-esteem of his students – especially Ben (Peter ten Brink), a boy with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming an astronaut.
Aided by fellow teacher Robynn McKinney (Jessy Schram), Mike faces incredible obstacles in trying to make his dream become reality. School administrators oppose the plan as being too expensive, and Space Camp officials (led by Dr. Deborah Barnhart, played by Cynthia Watros) are skeptical… They’ve never had special-ed kids apply before.
At long last, Mike and his students are given the green light. And then the real challenges begin, over nine months of rigorous teaching, learning, training and fund-raising. The kids are belittled and, in some cases, bullied by their fellow classmates, but Mike finds a way to keep them on track. He even convinces the school’s football team, his other students, to help them prepare for the intense physical challenges of Space Camp. The class finally leaves for Huntsville, Alabama. Will kids with Down syndrome, Tourette’s, learning disabilities and emotional problems be able to leave their baggage behind, coalesce into a team and compete with some of the brightest students from across the country?
In the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, many of the special-ed students were played by young actors who are, indeed, ‘special,’ with Down syndrome, autism and learning disabilities. The film was shot in Wilmington, NC and at NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
THE CAST: John Corbett as Mike Kersjes, Jessy Schram as Robynn McKinney, Cynthia Watros as Dr. Deborah Barnhart, Logan Huffman as Scott Goudy, Keson Loder as Lewis, Breezy Eslin as Stephanie, Peter ten Brink as Ben, Abigale Corrigan as Lisa, David Lambert as Steve, Jimmy Bellinger as Mattie, Tyrin Niles as Jamal, Tanner Dow as Adam, E. Roger Mitchell as Tom Keller, Keith Flippen as Dennis, Moira Kelly as Darcy, Mike Pniewski as Big Dan, Cameron Deane Steward as Josh Morgan, Mcsen Lintz as Ryan Kersjes, Mathew Lintz as Shawn Kerjes and Louise Linton as Julie.
A Smile as Big as the Moon was directed by James Sadwith (“Elvis,” “Life Is Wild”). The executive producers are Brent Shields (“Beyond the Blackboard,” “The Lost Valentine”) and Dan Paulson (“Saving Jessica Lynch,” “Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Pictures of Hollis Woods”). The script is by Tom Rickman (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Front of the Class”). Mike Kersjes served as technical advisor on the film.