Gordon Hartman was unsatisfied with the typical water park.

Water parks are a fun way to cool down in the summer heat, but they're often not very inclusive for people with special needs. Hartman decided to change that.

His daughter, Morgan, has a cognitive disability that makes it hard for her to communicate. In watching her try to interact with other kids, he realized he wanted to create spaces where she — and other kids like her — were able to easily join in on the fun, ABC News reports.


Hartman went on to build Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park in San Antonio, Texas, that opened in 2010. It features rides and attractions specifically designed for guests with disabilities.

Once the amusement park was open, Hartman set his eyes on water parks. For the next five years, he and his team worked with therapists, caregivers, parents, doctors, and water park experts to completely rethink what a water park could be for people with disabilities.

They broke ground in November 2015 and finally had their grand opening on June 17, 2017.

What they created is a stunning facility designed to make sure everyone can have fun.

[rebelmouse-image 19528625 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="This is, like, awesome Roman Mars' "99% Invisible"-type stuff. Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics." expand=1]This is, like, awesome Roman Mars' "99% Invisible"-type stuff. Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

It's called Morgan's Inspiration Island, and while there are accessible options in other water parks, Inspiration Island's dedication to inclusiveness goes beyond the pale.

Instead of steep-walled pools, guests can get soaked on splash pads instead, which are much friendlier for people with limited mobility.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

They can rush through rain curtains and geysers or take a spin behind (or in front of) a water cannon.

She might look cute, but beware, she can kill a man at 30 paces. Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

Spacious walkways and play areas make sure everyone can move around without restriction. There are also private areas for transferring in and out of wheelchairs as well.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

Waterproof wheelchairs make sure technology doesn't limit access either.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

For guests with battery-powered wheelchairs, getting hit with a water cannon might seem like a terrible idea. That's why the park teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh to create a waterproof version. The chairs, called the PneuChair, run on compressed air, not electricity, so a dip in the pool is perfectly safe. They're also designed to be lightweight and fast-charging to make sure the guests don't have to wait to have fun in the sun.

Photo from Morgan's Inspiration Island.

Parkgoers can enjoy a warmer water temperature at the reef exhibit to make it more tolerable and comfortable.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

Meanwhile, waterproof RFID-enabled wristbands help parents keep track of children.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

The wristbands make sure that if a kid wanders off, it's easy for parents to find them again.

Normal water parks can get overwhelming. At Morgan's Inspiration Island, they've created plenty of quiet, private spaces for guests to step away when they need.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

The park also purposefully caps the number of guests they let in at a time to make sure it never gets too crowded. People can make reservations online ahead of time.

The park is even economically-accessible — anyone with special needs is admitted free of charge. Being in Texas, water conservation is important too. The park is designed to continuously filter and recirculate its water, providing a clean, refreshing experience while also wasting as little as possible.

For Hartman, designing this park was about making sure everyone has a place to play and have fun.

Photo from Robin Jerstad/Jerstad Photographics.

"Morgan's Inspiration Island is not a special-needs park; it's a park of inclusion," Hartman said in a press release.

Everyone is welcome here, and through their empathetic, thoughtful approach, they really do mean everyone.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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