Dad’s heartbroken when disabled daughter’s excluded from pool, builds her a theme park instead

Parents of special needs kids go through just as much pain – if not more – when their kids are excluded from activities.

For Gordon Hartman, the last straw was seeing his 12-year-old daughter Morgan rejected by kids playing in a pool while on a family holiday. She tried to talk to them but they all left, likely because they didn’t know how to deal with someone with special needs. Morgan has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old as well as severe autism.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

“Morgan is just a wonderful young lady. When you meet her you will always get a smile and she will always want to offer a hug. But there were so many times we couldn’t take her places,” Hartman told BBC News.

Unwilling to let his daughter miss out on the childhood she deserved, Hartman took matters into his own hands – in a big way!

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

After finding there were no theme parks inclusive enough to accommodate his disabled daughter, he built one himself.

Construction began in 2007 and Morgan’s Wonderland was opened on April 10, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. It was built after consulting with doctors, therapists, parents, and other people with and without disabilities and sits on the 25-acre site of an abandoned quarry.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

And it’s not just for Morgan. It’s a park specially designed for kids of all needs and abilities with 25 unique activities all labeled “ultra-accessible.”

And the endeavor was so successful that Hartman added a waterpark addition in 2017 called Morgan’s Inspiration Island.

“Fewer people were visiting in July because the wheelchairs got too hot. So we decided to create a water park next door,” Hartman said.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

TIME Magazine has named the park one of the World’s Greatest Places.

The vision?

“We want Morgan’s Wonderland to be a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.”

Many visitors to the multi-million dollar theme part have told Hartman that he provided the only opportunity their kids had ever had to partake in rides and games.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

Since 2010, Morgan’s Wonderland has received over a million visitors from dozens of countries and all 50 American states. Entrance to the park is free to anyone with special needs.

“I realised Morgan was one of the lucky ones because she had many of the things she needed. I didn’t want cost to be a barrier for others with special needs,” Hartman told BBC News.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

Of course, this means the park is not a money-maker.

“We open every year knowing we’re going to lose over $1m (£750,000) and we need to recover that through fundraising and partners,” Hartman said.

But the park is still having the desired effect. Three out of four visitors are not disabled so it provides an opportunity for kids of all abilities to play together.

“It helps people realise that though we are different in some ways, actually we are all the same.”

While other people have begged Hartman to open parks in their area, he’s concentrating on San Antonio. But he has agreed to collaborate with anyone who wants to build one elsewhere.

Even though Morgan is now in her mid-20s she still visits the theme park. Her favorite places are the swings and the sand zone and she walks blissfully around the premises without any idea of the impact she’s had on the kids around her – something she’s not capable of grasping.

Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube Source: Screencap via Inside Edition/YouTube

But Hartman knows the impact and says his daughter is an inspiration to him and everyone around her.

Be sure to scroll down to see an interview with the family and shots from this amazing, inclusive theme park.

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Source: Inside Edition via YouTube, BBC News

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