Why you might want to visit this inclusive amusement park on your next vacation.

I can still remember my first trip to an amusement park as a child.

I remember the anticipation and excitement that came from choosing my favorite horse on the carousel, my mother lifting me up and placing me in the saddle, and instantly being transported into a world of wonder and amusement.

Unfortunately, amusement parks aren't always accessible to all people. There are countless children and adults with disabilities or special needs who would seemingly never be able to experience a theme park like I could.


But that’s changing.

Life is a carousel. I'm gonna ride it. All images via Morgan's Wonderland, used with permission.

An amusement park in Texas has created a world where everyone can make those memories.

Reeling in a big catch in the fully stocked catch-and-release pond.

Morgan's Wonderland is a one-of-a-kind theme park where every attraction is specially designed for "100% inclusion" of those with disabilities.

Music to my ears.

The San Antonio-based park has a long list of unique rides and experiences, including carousels made for people in wheelchairs, off-road jeeps with built-in ramps and compartments to allow full wheelchair access, a fully stocked fishing pond with minders to help anyone reel in that big catch, wheelchair swing sets, and roughly 20 other rides and attractions, all created to serve people with a range of special needs.

A journey of the senses.

The Sensory Village entertains the senses of those with cognitive challenges through interactive videos and a news station that lets you conduct a weather forecast and see yourself on TV. Want to try galloping? Mechanical horses replicate the experience of riding for people who might not otherwise be able to.

Ready to hit the open road in a car simulator.

Opened in 2010 by philanthropist Gordon Hartman, who was previously a prominent real estate developer, Morgan’s Wonderland has provided fun and laughter to 65,000 children and adults from over 60 countries and all 50 states.

They’ve done so completely free of charge to those with disabilities or special needs, too. As a nonprofit, they are fueled by donations.

The motivation for the park came from Gordon Hartman’s own family life.

The namesake and inspiration for the park is Morgan Hartman, the 21-year-old daughter of Gordon and Maggie Hartman, who is cognitively challenged and also has some physical special needs.

Morgan and Gordon Hartman.


Gordon recalls watching his daughter at the pool, attempting to play with other children on a vacation. He noticed that the other children were unsure of how to interact with Morgan and subsequently didn’t include her. The kids weren’t being mean, according to Hartman. “They didn’t know how to play with or understand her,” he told Upworthy.

Knowing that there were millions of people just like Morgan, he envisioned a park where the culture was in line with their needs and specially designed to ensure inclusion. Then he built it.


Gordon Hartman with daughter Morgan Hartman and Wonderland mascot Joy.

Fast-forward five years, and they are now expanding the idea even further.

In November, the park announced it would break ground on what they call the world’s first “ultra inclusion” waterpark.

It will feature unique wheelchair access and have special considerations for those who are hearing or visually impaired.

Water. Always a good time.

Morgan’s Wonderland is helping create a culture of acceptance.

The hope is that the idea of inclusion will continue outside the walls of the park and into society. Here, kids and adults of all abilities play together every day while increasing their awareness and understanding of one another. Gordon made it very clear that this is a park for everybody and not just those with special needs.

Morgan's Wonderland is important not only because it overcame countless design challenges to provide fun for everyone but also because it’s trying to inspire an ethos, a way of being, a culture of acceptance and inclusion in our society as a whole.

And let’s not forget this part: It’s a lot of fun.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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