Feel-Good Friday: Gordon Hartman's Daughter Morgan Inspired Him to Build an Accessible World for Her and Others With Special Needs

Gordon Hartman and his daughter, Morgan Hartman. CREDIT: Screenshot

It has been exactly one week since the monumental decision overturning Roe was issued by the Supreme Court. Of the more than 63 million babies aborted since Roe‘s passage in 1973, we have no idea how many of these babies would have been special needs.

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Any parent who chose the life of their special needs child over a “perfect” child will tell you that what makes these children so special is that they transform and complete their families, as well as the world around them.

Such is the case with Morgan Hartman, who inspired her father Gordon to sell his successful real estate development businesses and build a world of recreation where she would feel welcomed and have a safe place to play.

They are the subject of this week’s Feel-Good Friday story.

Call her a catalyst, a spark, an inspiration. Morgan Hartman doesn’t realize it, but her ability to smile through physical and cognitive special needs spurred her parents – Gordon and Maggie Hartman – to do things never before accomplished for individuals with special needs and their families. Morgan inspired the creation of a one-of-a-kind theme park and other initiatives benefiting the inclusive community.

The tipping point occurred in 2006 when Gordon observed Morgan wanting to play with other vacationing kids at a hotel swimming pool, but the kids were leery of Morgan and didn’t want to interact with her. Then and there, Gordon and Maggie resolved to create opportunities and places where those with and without disabilities can come together for fun and better understand one another. That led to the construction of Morgan’s Wonderland in an abandoned quarry in Northeast San Antonio. It’s apropos that the butterfly is the symbol of this unique theme park; soaring to one success after another is now commonplace.

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Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed with special needs children in mind, opened in 2010. The park is completely wheelchair accessible and incorporates rides, playgrounds, and a host of eye-catching attractions—more than 25—to bring delight and enjoyment, and create an atmosphere where these children can bond with their families and make new friends.

The admission is FREE, for anyone with a special need; no questions asked.

In 2017, Hartman, through his Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, opened up a new park: Morgan’s Inspiration Island, a water park that is also built with special needs and mobility assistance in mind.

 

Hartman continues to use his now 28-year-old daughter as inspiration to expand on his vision of making the world a happier place for those with special needs. In a 2019 San Antonio Magazine interview, Hartman outlined his plans to open Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, an ultra-accessible camp that will have a challenge course, cabins, and more designed to accommodate those with disabilities, and even those without. Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, a sports facility for adults and kids with special needs, was also in the works. Additionally, Hartman desired to extend his special needs assistance beyond the recreational arena into the practical. Hartman plans to build a Multi-Assistance Center (MAC), a place where families with special needs children can go and receive help and services to streamline the process for medical and other benefits.

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The Foundation goes even further, supporting programs, projects, and collaborating with non-profit organizations in the greater San Antonio area that work directly with the special needs community. The Foundation has assisted more than 600 non-profit agencies through monetary grants, sponsorships, events, and resources.

For those who still think aborting special needs babies is necessary in order to spare them, and the parents, burden, pain, and difficulty, Hartman had this to say:

Here’s what I can tell you: Many times people speak about special needs as being a negative and I’ve seen it as nothing but a positive. My daughter and I are much closer than we would have ever been because of her special needs. Morgan is someone who has taught in a very positive way not just my wife and myself and our family, but also other people about the importance of life.

And because Morgan was the spark that inspired Gordon Hartman to create a world where she belonged, other special needs children and their families now have a place of belonging and welcome too.

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