This amazing dad built a $34 million theme park for a truly amazing reason
Any parent who has had a child with a disability will know of the struggle and discrimination they had to endure whilst they were raising their child. Children, though innocent and sweet, simply do not know how to react to them, and will often unknowingly discriminate or simply refuse to associate with them; something no child should endure.
Gordon Hartman is one such man who had to live through the struggle of his 12-year-old daughter being constantly left out by the children of her age group.
He realized he had a genuine problem on his hand when his daughter approached some children playing in a pool, only for them to quickly leave; not understanding how to deal with someone who had a disability.
Though physically 12, Morgan's daughter has a form of autism and has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old. He said he felt sad for his daughter, and that she was a wonderful young lady who always brought a smile to your face, and would always offer you a hug.
Though she had such a wonderful and uplifting personality, her parents realized they could often not take her to places; because places where she would feel comfortable, and others would feel comfortable interacting with her, simply did not exist.
Tired of all the discrimination, Hartman decided to build such a place himself – setting out to create the world's first ultra-accessible theme park. A former property developer, he sold his homebuilding businesses so he could set up the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation; a non-profit organization that seeks to help people with disabilities.
The park. christened Morgan's Park after his daughter, ended up costing a whopping $34 million, and initially opened in 2010. He made sure that the park lived up to all the necessary standards, consulting with doctors, therapists and parents of other children with disabilities before proceeding with the construction on the 25-acre disused quarry in San Antonio, Texas.
He reveals the challenges he faced even after designing a park specifically meant for disabled children. He talks of how his daughter was confused with the various attractions in the park and would refuse to ride them for a whole three years, before eventually working up the courage to explore them.
Since its opening, the park has received an overwhelmingly positive response, attracting over a million visitors from 67 countries and the park remains open though it's hemorrhaging over $1 million a year.
An issue constantly raised was that of wheelchairs getting constantly hot during the summer months; that was smartly solved through the extension of the park by construction of a fully-accessible water park - one that cost $17m.
But to Gordon, it's all been worth it; he talks of how visitors constantly come up to him and thank him for providing their special-needs children with an environment where they feel like truly belong. It has also helped improve interaction between normal children and those with disabilities, something they've always strived for.
His daughter is now a rockstar amongst the other children in the park, and he feels her life and those of millions of other disabled children has possibly changed for the better; a happy ending we can all live with.
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