Two students spent the week at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, each writing about their experience. You can read about Laura Kowalik’s experience on her personal blog site. Kaitlyn’s experience is included below:
Morgan’s Wonderland: A Special Place for Special Friends by Kaitlyn Budney ’19
For a week this past summer I was an intern at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas. Morgan’s is an amusement park built from the ground up for disabled children. This park was dreamt up by Gordon Hartman, a real estate developer for low to middle income families. He was watching his daughter Morgan, who has special needs, try to play with some children at a local pool. He saw how the children reacted to Morgan and was saddened. He set out to build a place founded on the spirit of inclusion. So he created Morgan’s Wonderland where everyone, no matter the age or ability, can play and learn together.
The park features four rides including a Ferris Wheel, train, carousel, and an off road adventure ride. Each ride is completely wheel chair accessible. There is also a wharf on a man-made lake where the kids can go catch and release fishing for catfish and bass. The children also have the option of playing on one of the three large and covered playscapes or endless swings. Another feature of Morgan’s is the three wheelchair swings; an innovation only at this park. Most children in wheelchairs have never been or have not been on a swing in a significant period of time. It’s heartwarming to see the child’s face light up as they experience the sensation of swinging once more.
Morgan’s also places a large emphasis on education. For two days a week the park closes to the public and is only open to educational field trips. Schools can schedule a field trip with the knowledge that the children will not be losing a productive day. The children are broken up into groups and rotate through 5-7 stations within the park for short 20-30 minute lessons. Each lesson has been approved by the state of Texas. As a result, each child can receive credit for an educational school day.
Morgan’s also has a school called The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland. This school focuses on helping students with cognitive disabilities ages 12-24 reach their full potential. It is a private school also built by Mr. Hartman. The school provides individualized instruction catered to each individual with an emphasis on personal and social skills, daily living, and vocational skills. This is in the effort to prepare each student to live fully and to the best of their ability within society.
I learned a lot during my time at Morgan’s. The most important lesson I learned however is that no matter a person’s age and cognitive or physical ability, everyone can coexist in harmony. Everyone finds joy at Morgan’s because everyone is included and is a friend. This wonderful park is a blessing to so many families and children whether they have special needs or not. The only thing left to do is create many more Morgan’s Wonderlands all over the world to spread this epic spirit of inclusion!