A father builds a $35 million theme park for his daughter with special needs.
Gordon Hartman watched his then 12 year old daughter Morgan have trouble making friends during a family vacation at a pool.
Hartman searched for a public space where Morgan, who is on the autism spectrum and experienced a cognitive delay, could play with others who know how to interact with her. Hartman soon realized such a place didn’t exist. So, he made it himself.
Hartman is the founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, an ultra-accessible theme park in San Antonio, Texas, where people with or without disabilities can play together. It is a place of total inclusion, a park where there are no barriers from keeping anyone from playing with each other.
The 53 year old father began his pursuit of helping those with disabilities when he founded The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation after selling off his homebuilding business in 2005.
Hartman held dozens of meetings to raise money and collaborated with architects, engineers, doctors and therapists to design the $35 million Park.
Morgan’s Wonderland includes a fully-accessible train, playground, and Ferris wheel. The water park features a wheelchair accessible river ride and areas with warm water to help those with muscular conditions. The park also provides special wrist bands that can track the whereabouts of visitors, which is handy for those with autism, who are often considered flight risks.
Morgan’s Wonderland has had more than a million visitors since it opened, and one third of its staff includes people with special needs.
Admission is free for anyone with a mental or physical disability.
Today Morgan is 23 and is a true inspiration to the entire organization and that is why they named the water park, “Morgan’s Inspiration Island”.
Hartman was successful in building a theme park that incorporated people with and without special needs like no other place before it.