When Gordon Hartman took a family vacation with his then-12-year-old daughter Morgan, what was supposed to be a fun excursion at a swimming pool became sad or even heartbreaking, when Morgan, diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, had a hard time making friends and enjoying herself in the overwhelming space. Hartman immediately began searching for an alternative to the typical amusement park where his daughter could have her own recreational needs met, and according to a recent People magazine story, he went ahead and built one after finding that such a place unthinkably didn't already exist.
The park is Morgan's Wonderland, located in San Antonio, Texas. It's designed to be an amusement park of "total inclusion," where anyone, regardless of any special needs they might have. According to Hartman itself:
"It's a park for 100 percent of the people, not one for 90 or 80 percent of them, it's for everybody, no matter how acute their special need may be. That's what my dream was."
To make that dream come true, it took $35 million, raised by Hartman himself and with input from an array of doctors, engineers, and architects, all to make sure that no child would ever feel excluded from Morgan's Wonderland. Construction began in 2007 and took three years to complete, and now The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation has also been able to add a $17 million water park to the complex, called Morgan's Inspiration Island.
Between Morgan's Wonderland and Morgan's Inspiration Island, the parks' million-plus guests since it opened in 2010 can enjoy a train, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round, all built to be fully accessible, in addition to numerous other rides and attractions. Some on the autism spectrum can be categorized as flight risks, so geo-location wristbands are provided for guests as well.
Hartman told the magazine that Morgan's Wonderland operates at a loss of about a million dollars a year and depends on donations to keep running, thanks in part to its policy of free admission for any guest with special needs.