Mid-Michigan students celebrate national book debut with Chicago trip

CHICAGO (WJRT) - (6/28/19) - A famous Michigan turtle crossed state lines for a special debut.

The Benson's Adventures Series went national with a new book.

Shiawassee County educators Shannon Cooper-Toma and Tracy Foster created the series and a non-profit literacy foundation. They recently celebrated the book release of "Benson's Adventures in the U.S.A." by taking a group of students on a big trip to Chicago.

A community effort helped make it happen.

"We want students to get out and explore because we know traveling opens their eyes to an incredible world of opportunity," said Toma.

The authors have a passionate message for children. Anything is possible when you follow your dreams.

"We love Corunna, we love our small towns. But to take the students into the big city for the first time, to watch their expression they saw the first skyscraper, it was just absolutely incredible," Toma said.

The Windy City rolled out the red carpet for the students.

Their first stop was the famous Shedd Aquarium. The children learned about beluga whales, barred owls, sea lions, and dolphins during an interactive show.

The nonprofit aquarium also gave the children a special private tour. The students were able to get a close look at penguins, exotic creatures, a diver feeding a Wobbegong Shark, and more.

Their next adventure gave the group an amazing view of Chicago. The students were treated to a private tour of the Skydeck in the Willis Tower.

They were fascinated by the busy city as they peeked through clouds more than 1,300 feet in the air.

The girls in the group then headed to the American Girl Store. They were treated to a delicious meal and sat next to dolls -- and they received an American Girl doll to take home.

Foster said it would not have been possible without generous donations, including sponsorships for each of the American Girl dolls.

It was also a sweet night for the boys, right down the street. Dylan's Candy Bar sponsored a special VIP celebration.

The children enjoyed games and crafts and decorated fancy cupcakes to take back to Michigan. They also received a surprise candy spree, courtesy of the store.

Toma and Foster said they were forever grateful for the caring sponsors and donors for helping inspire children.

See "Related Links" on the right side or bottom of this story for details on the Benson's Adventures books and the Benson's Literacy Foundation.