The National Recreation Foundation looks to enhance the quality of life of economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged youth, those we often describe as being “at-risk”, through investing in recreation programs focused on these populations. Often our concentration and efforts are directed towards the economically disadvantaged group. The foundation is in a position to provide funding to different organizations, funding support is a logical way to have an impact on financially disadvantaged youth. However, individuals with physical and mental disabilities or impairments are often some of the most marginalized in our communities and are often times overlooked. In 2016, 7.2% of the roughly 46 million children aged 6-17 had a disability. While this doesn’t initially sound like a large percentage, 3,362,400 children seems significant. Recreation opportunities for these populations have been historically few and far between and if offered can be fairly expensive for the participant and their families.
The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation in San Antonio, Texas is actively working to change that and in the process offer some new ideas for how to program for these populations. Gordon and Maggie Hartman, opened Morgan’s Wonderland in 2010. This park is named after their daughter, Morgan, who lives with physical and cognitive impairments. This theme park, which cost $34 million to construct, contains rides, playgrounds, and gardens all of which are completely accessible for individuals with disabilities to enjoy.
Gordon Hartman says, “Morgan’s Wonderland is just like any other theme park except for the added benefit of a culture and environment that assures 100 percent enjoyment by everyone who enters. Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that can help them fully enjoy outdoor recreation. We truly believe Morgan’s Wonderland is beginning to change that.”
The changes continue this summer with the introduction a new waterpark, called Morgan’s Inspiration Island. The park contains several splash pad areas with different components and themes, a river boat ride, and other water features. Every feature in the park is completely accessible, even for those who require the assistance of a wheel chair. The park offers specially designed wheelchairs that participants may use during their time in the park so as not to cause costly damages to personal devices.
The best part of this park is that admission is free for those with special needs. Take some time to look through the photos on the park’s website as well as in this news release. The looks on these children’s faces speak for themselves. What an incredible organization doing great things for a deserving population.