American Heart: Creating a Theme Park for Those With Special Needs

A man creates a place of wonder for his own special needs daughter and others.

ByABC News
March 9, 2010, 1:26 PM

March 9, 2010— -- A boy's first ride on a carousel. A 57-year-old woman's first time on a swing. A no-holds-barred adventure in the water. These are simple joys that for so many people with special needs were out of reach, until a place called Morgan's Wonderland came around.

Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio, the first large theme park created for people with special needs, was created by Gordon Hartman, 46, a former San Antonio real estate developer who said his daughter Morgan was his inspiration.

"Morgan has really taught me that there's more to life in many ways than what I saw before, being so busy as a business man," Hartman said.

Hartman's 16-year-old daughter Morgan suffers from severe cognitive delay. A few years ago, Hartman sold his business and began spending more time with Morgan and her friends, he said.

One day, while he and Morgan were in a swimming pool, Hartman said he had a realization that helped put his life into perspective.

"There were some other children at the other end of the pool, a couple of kids playing with a ball back and forth and you could tell Morgan wanted to play with them," Hartman said.

But because of her inability to communicate properly, Morgan and the kids were left on opposite sides of the pool. So Hartman decided to make sure there was a place where couldn't, shouldn't or can't were not a part of the vocabulary.

He raised $30 million, including $1 million of his own, to build Morgan's Wonderland, which is scheduled to officially open on April 10 but has already been open to some visitors.