Saturday, August 19, 2017
How one man built a $51m theme park for his daughter
Gordon Hartman had just got out of the swimming pool on a family holiday, when his 12-year-old daughter Morgan went up to some children playing in the water. She tried to make friends with them but they quickly left the pool.
Hartman thinks they shied away from her because they didn't know how to react to someone with a disability - Morgan has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old as well as a form of autism.
The incident played on his mind.
"Morgan is just a wonderful young lady. When you meet her you will always get a smile and she will always want to offer a hug. But there were so many times we couldn't take her places," he says
Hartman and his wife Maggie asked other parents where they could take their daughter - somewhere she would feel comfortable, and others would feel comfortable interacting with her.
"We realised such an inclusive place didn't exist," says Hartman.
So in 2007 he decided to build it himself. A former property developer, he sold his homebuilding businesses in 2005 to set up The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation that seeks to help people with disabilities.
Then he set about creating the "world's first ultra-accessible theme park".
"We wanted a theme park where everyone could do everything, where people with and without special needs could play," Hartman says.
He brought together doctors, therapists, parents and other people with and without disabilities to consult on the facilities. These were built on the 25-acre site of a disused quarry in San Antonio, Texas.
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