Dad Spends $35 Million to Build Disability Theme Park for Daughter with Special Needs, Offers Disabled People Free Entry

By: Carissa | Last updated: Oct 20, 2023

A father’s love knows no bounds. Gordan Hartman wanted to ensure that his daughter was able to make friends, so he went above and beyond to create a place where she could socialize. He constructed an entire theme park with her in mind.

Morgan Hartman, who is autistic, became the inspiration for Morgan’s Wonderland, a theme park designed to cater to the needs of disabled patrons. Amazingly, the attraction is the first of its kind, and the Hartman family offers free admission to people with disabilities.

Drawing Inspiration From His Daughter

After going on a family vacation when Morgan was young, Gordan noticed that his daughter, Morgan, was struggling to interact with other kids.

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Despite wanting to make friends with other children playing in the swimming pool, she was too nervous to try. The other kids had difficulty understanding Morgan because of her autism. At that very moment, Gordon felt compelled to do something impactful for his daughter.

Developing a Disability Theme Park

Gordon began conjuring an elaborate amusement park that would be disability friendly. In honor of his daughter, he decided to call it Morgan’s Wonderland.

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The venue would be accessible to all, with special attention to details for disabled people. Gordon fantasized about people traveling from far and wide to experience his all-inclusive theme park. “It’s a park for 100 percent of the people, not one for 90 or 80 percent of them,” he said. “It’s for everybody, no matter how acute their special needs may be. That’s what my dream was.”

A Place for All Children to Feel Included

The theme park was intended to be an accessible playground where all children – even kids with disabilities – could play together with ease. In Gordon’s mind, the inclusive nature of the park would make it easier for kids of all ages to engage.

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Morgan would be able to play and prosper on the playground as an equal, not as someone who is differently abled.

Brainstorming How to Keep Disabled Patrons Comfortable

Gordon’s mission was clear. “It’s about not letting anyone feel different,” he said. “That’s what we tried to do with this park.” Morgan’s Wonderland was designed to be “ultra-accessible.” The father sought the expert advice of doctors, therapists, engineers, and architects when creating the design for the theme park.

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While accessibility was key, Gordon thought of every way to help keep disabled patrons comfortable. The park even offers complimentary waterproof bags for ventilators and waterproof wheelchairs.

Finding Funding Becomes a Bit of an Obstacle

In 2005, Gordon had to figure out how to pay for the theme park he had spent so much time planning. To fund the construction of Morgan’s Wonderland, Gordon sold his homebuilding company he started as a young entrepreneur.

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Though his business was profitable and he enjoyed the scope of work, Gordon was willing to give it all up to help his daughter. When the company was sold, he created The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation.

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Morgan’s Wonderland Has It All

After years of fundraising through the foundation, Gordon had met his $35 million goal. He was able to put the funds into the construction of the project, and Morgan’s Wonderland officially opened to the public in 2010.

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Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland features rides, games, playgrounds, a special events center, and a 575-seat amphitheater—all of which were completely designed with disabilities in mind.

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The Park Was Everything Gordon Had Imagined and More

Morgan’s Wonderland was Gordon Hartman’s dream come true. He had spent years envisioning a magical place where his daughter – and people like her – could play freely and accessibly.

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All children at the theme park can experience every ride and every activity. Morgan’s Wonderland is a place where disabilities don’t matter. At the one-of-a-kind park, children and their families are able to create memories that will last a lifetime.

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A Park Beloved by Disabled Visitors

Gordon has received positive feedback for his contribution to the disabled community. One couple reached out to him to express their gratitude for allowing their daughter to have fun just like everyone else. Her time at the park was pure bliss.

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Instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching the other kids play, the little girl was able to participate and play along. It was a joyful experience for the girl and her family.

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So Far the Response Has Been Great

“So many people told us that this would be an opportunity for our daughter to finally have a place where she wouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines, she could actually do everything,” Gordon said.

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It’s conversations like these that solidify Gordon’s decision to create Morgan’s Wonderland. After seeing what his daughter went through as a child, he knew he had to make a difference to help disabled children thrive.

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A True Asset to the Community

Since opening its doors, Morgan’s Wonderland has helped thousands of families spend quality time together without having to worry about their children feeling excluded. The park has been operating for 13 years, providing itself to be a valuable asset to the community.

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Gordon’s desire to open an inclusive theme park was both innovative and inspirational. Morgan, now 30-years-old, is still an active member of the theme park’s planned events and activities.

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Morgan’s World is a Thriving Theme Park

The path to creating Morgan’s Wonderland wasn’t an easy one. From concept to construction, the project took several years and millions of dollars to complete. Despite all the highs and lows that came along with making the theme park a success, Gordon would do it all over again in an instant.

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“I’ll never forget the look of anguish and dismay on Morgan’s face,” he once said. “So I decided there had to be a way to bridge the gap of misunderstanding about people with special needs.

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