Morgan’s Wonderland seeking to honor champions who’ve befriended people with special needs

MorgansWonderland_logoMorgan’s Wonderland has set Friday, Aug. 1, as the deadline for 2014 Walk of Fame nominations, according to Ron Morander, general manager of the world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals of all ages in mind and built to be enjoyed by everyone.

“We annually honor five outstanding individuals who have been champions for the special-needs community,” Morander said.  “These remarkable individuals serve those with special needs in many different ways.  In doing so, they embody character traits such as determination, caring, achievement, sacrifice and inclusion.”

Walk of Fame honorees will be recognized at the Free to Soar Gala on Friday evening, Sept. 19, at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, and their names will be added to the Walk and Roll Path that encircles the park’s scenic eight-acre lake.

A committee from Morgan’s Wonderland and The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, along with special advisors, will review nominations of not more than two typewritten pages submitted to and select honorees.  Complete nominating instructions can be found on the park’s website,

Sponsorship information and other details about the Free to Soar Gala are available from Becky Thomas at (210) 493-2811.

Morander provided examples of deserving honorees – a student who, regardless of a special need, perseveres at school and inspires other students; a Wounded Warrior who embraces life despite immense physical challenges and serves as a role model for other Warriors; a dedicated employee who has earned the admiration of a supervisor and peers for a job well done; a parent or caregiver who has sacrificed to make a difference for those with special needs; or someone who works directly with the special-needs community to make a difference in numerous lives.

“Though we recognize that an individual might be a true inspiration or a hero to his or her family members, we’re looking for those who positively influence or help multiple individuals in spite of physical or cognitive challenges,” Morander said.

Names of the honorees will be embedded in round, translucent “stepping stones” featuring the Morgan’s Wonderland logo – a butterfly in flight – on the ¾-mile-long Walk and Roll Path.  The pathway contains 88 of the 2-foot-in-diameter stepping stones that glow beginning at dusk.

Morgan’s Wonderland, which is completely wheelchair-accessible, features more than 25 attractions including rides, playgrounds and gardens.  (Check for the latest information on days and hours of operation.)  Admission for special-needs guests is free; admission for accompanying family members, friends, caregivers and the general public is nominal.  Children age 2 and younger are also admitted free of charge.

The inspiration for Morgan’s Wonderland came from philanthropist Gordon Hartman’s 20-year-old daughter Morgan.  Her soaring spirit despite personal challenges sparked within him a deep desire to create a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers and invited friends.  “Inclusion is the overarching objective,” he noted.  “Everyone can have a good time at Morgan’s Wonderland.”

Morgan’s Wonderland is part of a larger 106-acre sports venue to encourage inclusive recreation whereby individuals of all abilities can play side-by-side.  The nearby STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex offers 13 lighted soccer fields for tournaments and league play.  Net profits from STAR Soccer go to support the operation and maintenance of Morgan’s Wonderland.  Likewise, net profits from the San Antonio Scorpions FC pro soccer team and the team’s new, 8,000-seat home – Toyota Field – are also earmarked to expand programs and services at Morgan’s Wonderland for the special-needs community.

In addition, Monarch Academy, a school for students with special needs next to Morgan’s Wonderland, is wrapping up its third year of instruction.

Morgan’s Wonderland is located in Northeast San Antonio a half-mile west of IH 35 at the intersection of Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks Drive.  For more information, call either (210) 495-5888 or toll-free (877) 495-5888.