We are a couple of weeks into summer, and my kids and I have already hit multiple pools, water parks, and splash pads. Swimming and splashing and playing in the water will likely be one of their favorite childhood memories, as few other activities bring them such joy. For kids with disabilities or special needs, however, days like these of fun in the sun are often an impossibility. Getting in and out of the pool may be too difficult. The parks may not be wheelchair accessible. And oftentimes loud noises and cold water associated with pools and water parks are too much for kids with sensitivity issues. But as of this past weekend, children in San Antonio, TX—ALL children—can swim, and splash, and play in the water at Morgan’s Inspiration Island.
An extension of the theme park Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island was specifically designed to include kids with special needs. Opening its doors on Saturday June 17, the $17-million park is completely wheelchair accessible, equipped with waterproof wheelchairs called PneuChairs that fit a variety of heights and sizes, waterproof ID bracelets with radio-frequency identification to help parents keep track of their kids, and a special area with warmer water where guests with a sensitivity to cold can play comfortably.
Gordon and Maggie Hartman, founders of the water park, have a daughter named Morgan with special needs. And they say that the park is in named in her honor as “she is the catalyst for every project we’ve pursued to help the special-needs community.” Knowing the struggles children with disabilities face, Gordon and Maggie did not take the task lightly as they created a place that would be accessible to all kids. They collaborated with the University of Pittsburgh to create air-powered waterproof wheelchairs that charge in 10 minutes. They also knew it was necessary to consult with water park specialists, doctors, teachers, and experts in special education and special needs to make sure they got it right.
By the looks of it as seen in these pictures, I think they did.
What’s more, admission is FREE for children with special needs or disabilities, parking is FREE, and picnics are welcome. This is a huge blessing for families burdened with off the charts medical bills and dietary restrictions. With an 8-acre catch and release fishing lake, a river boat adventure ride, and splashy elements such as rain-trees, falls, pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and tipping buckets, Morgan’s Inspiration Island without a doubt will be a place where childhood memories are made.
Children with disabilities and special needs feel ostracized and left out in so many aspects of their childhood. Knowing first-hand how painful that can be for a child, the Hartmans wanted to create a place for all children to play and find joy. “Like Morgan’s Wonderland, Morgan’s Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it’s a park of inclusion,” Gordon says. This is a place where kids like Morgan can have fun alongside any other child, and not feel different. And there’s no greater gift you can give a child with special needs than a chance to feel like any other kid, splashing in the water on a hot summer day.