Bringing Joy to Special Children

A specially designed amusement park proves a blessing to kids too often left out.

Posted in , Apr 19, 2012

A pair of happy children enjoy a ride at Morgan's Wonderland

There’s a 25-acre complex in San Antonio, Texas, with rides, slides, swings, a carousel, a miniature train, a water playground, even a pirate island. A place most kids would love.

But there’s something that makes Morgan’s Wonderland a Godsend to many families: It’s a place where kids of all abilities can play, the first-ever amusement park designed for children with special needs.

Every attraction is wheelchair-accessible. There are no lines, and no entry fees for special-needs kids (siblings and adults pay ten and fifteen dollars apiece).

The inspiration for the park is businessman Gordon Hartman’s daughter, Morgan. Six years ago they were on vacation. He watched her toss a ball with some kids in the hotel pool. But the game didn’t last long.

“Morgan has a moderate cognitive disability so she can’t speak very well,” Gordon says. “The other kids got uncomfortable and left. She’s different and that can be a barrier to play.”

Gordon envisioned a place without barriers where all kids could play together. His team asked therapists, teachers, doctors, caregivers and parents what they’d like in a park, and designed attractions to fit. More than 200,000 visitors from all 50 states have come to the park since it opened in April 2010.

“It’s awesome to have a place where our son doesn’t have to sit and watch,” one mom said.

View our slideshow of images of children at play at Morgan's Wonderland.

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