How does 25 acres sound and FREE admission to the person who is disabled? Wheelchair accessible rides! One of my high school BFFs found this awesome place and moved her family to be closer to it. Here is the video of her family!
This magical place is called Morgan’s Wonderland!
In 2006, San Antonio philanthropist Gordon Hartman observed a poignant occurrence involving his daughter Morgan, a child with special needs, and a group of other children. All were on vacation splashing in a hotel swimming pool. Morgan appeared as if she wanted to take part in the fun, and the others exhibited similar interest in interacting with Morgan. Unfortunately, the connection never materialized.
Hartman thought then and there how wonderful it would be to create a special place for special friends. It would be an environment for inclusion and understanding. It would be an oasis for those needing a safe place to relax and enjoy the outdoors and each other. Hartman quickly learned that millions of children and adults with cognitive and physical challenges generally do not have access to facilities specifically established to assist them in enjoying the fun outdoor activities that able-bodied individuals have access to and often take for granted. What if everyone were free to “soar” beyond their perceived limitations?
Thus, Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park, began with a desire to re-imagine the possibilities of what an inclusive park could be. It evolved into a safe, colorful, 25-acre park that serves as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, friends, caregivers and the public at large. Morgan’s Wonderland is a place where “kids” of all ages and abilities can have fun, and from the very beginning, it has admitted anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge free of charge.
To take Morgan’s Wonderland from dream to reality, The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation in 2007 established non-profit Sports Outdoor And Recreation (SOAR), a non-profit to raise money for park construction and to provide for quality, professional management. Funding began with an initial gift of $1 million from Gordon and Maggie Hartman in love and admiration for Morgan. Financial commitments from the City of San Antonio, the State of Texas, charitable foundations, corporations and individuals also contributed to the exciting endeavor.
In the spring of 2009, the Foundation broke ground on the former site of Longhorn Quarry in Northeast San Antonio to develop the one-of-a-kind family fun park. Construction of the $34 million park took slightly more than a year, and a festive grand opening occurred April 10, 2010, with actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria and NBA basketball legend David Robinson on hand as special guests.
Also in 2010, Hartman opened the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex adjacent to Morgan’s Wonderland. This 75-acre soccer facility hosts practices, league play and tournaments for teams across Texas. All net profits go to non-profit Morgan’s Wonderland to help defray operating expenses as well as to expand programs and services for the special-needs community. A good example is STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Sports), which offers recreational and competitive soccer to both youth and adults with physical disabilities.
Hartman then launched Soccer for a Cause, a community-wide effort to bring pro soccer to San Antonio that resulted in the acquisition of a franchise in the North American Soccer League (NASL). The San Antonio Scorpions FC had an outstanding inaugural year in 2012, winning the NASL Regular Season Championship and averaging almost 10,000 fans per game. Like STAR Soccer, the Scorpions convey all net profits to Morgan’s Wonderland. It’s the first team in professional sports history to be organized for the benefit of a non-profit helping those with special needs.
In August 2012, global automotive giant Toyota announced its presenting sponsorship of the Scorpions’ new stadium, now known as Toyota Field. The 8,000-seat stadium and entertainment venue, which opened in April 2013, is expandable in stages up to 18,000 seats. Toyota also became presenting sponsor of Morgan’s Wonderland under a long-term philanthropic agreement.
Another outgrowth of Morgan’s Wonderland is Monarch Academy, a school for students with special needs that opened in August 2011. It’s a unique learning environment next to the theme park that enables students from ages 12 to 24 to reach their maximum potential.
Slowly but surely, Longhorn Quarry is being transformed into a destination – “Wonderland, Texas” – focusing on family entertainment, sports, recreational activities, concerts, special events and education. What’s truly remarkable is that everything that happens at Wonderland, Texas, benefits individuals with special needs. Everyone involved in Wonderland, Texas, offers deepest gratitude to all those now and in the future who care deeply about inclusion and positively changing lives. As Hartman continues to maintain, “Together, we can make a difference!” http://www.morganswonderland.com/
I hope I can take my family there some day! Happy summer vacation planning!
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