The Dad of the Year award officially goes to Gordon Hartman, who has built a multi-million dollar theme park for his daughter, who suffers from autism and a cognitive delay. According to Autism Speaks,
"Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences."
Hartman watched his 12-year-old daughter have difficulty making friends in a pool while the family was on vacation. It left him heartbroken.
Hartman wanted there to be a place where his daughter could interact with people who had similar stories and struggles. He decided to create Morgan's Wonderland, an ultra-accessible theme park, which according to People magazine, is a park
"...where people with or without disabilities can play together. It’s a place of total inclusion — a park where there are no barriers from keeping anyone from playing with each other."
His dream was to create a place where everybody could have fun together, and where inclusion was found in every little crevice. While Hartman watched his daughter struggle with making friends in the pool during that vacation, he realized that if children understood more about others with disabilities, it would have been easier for his daughter to make friends.
By creating Morgan's Wonderland, he hopes that people, both those with disabilities and without, can learn from each other have fun. The amusement park welcomes everybody and is a symbol of the kind of society we should strive to create and live in.
Hartman told People,
“It’s about not letting anyone feel different. That’s what we tried to do with this park.”
The park cost $35 million to create and broke ground in 2007. In 2010 the park was complete, but this year, Morgan's Wonderland welcomed another addition: a water park named Morgan's Inspiration Land.
The water park has a river ride that is wheelchair accessible and also has some play areas with warm water for those with muscular conditions. The wrist bands that each person is given at the park have a tracker, which helps people find their loved ones if they wander off. Some children who visit Morgan's Wonderland are autistic and might be more inclined to wander. Many people with autism, even high functioning autism, are considered flight risks, according to the Child Mind Institute.
Several people have come up to Hartman and thanked him for creating a place where their children can finally feel included. According to People,
"The man pointed to his adult son playing in the water and told Hartman that he had never seen his child play like that before."
Hartman truly has created a beautiful world not only for his daughter but for other people who want to have fun and feel accepted around others.
You might also like