Morgan's Wonderland the world's first Ultra-Accessible, family fun park located in San Antonio, Texas

Episode 20 July 20, 2020 00:50:30
Morgan's Wonderland the world's first Ultra-Accessible, family fun park located in San Antonio, Texas
Freewheelin with Carden
Morgan's Wonderland the world's first Ultra-Accessible, family fun park located in San Antonio, Texas

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Morgan's Wonderland the world's first Ultra-Accessible, family fun park located in San Antonio, Texas with speakers Brooke Kearney, Jessica Lizardo, and Danielle Henning led by host Carden Wyckoff


What is Morgan's Wonderland?

Episode Highlights


Special thanks to my producer Jonathan Raz on Fiverr

Episode image of a young girl in a wheelchair going thru a water ride smiling and laughing. There is a man behind her leaning down and holding onto the wheelchair also smiling.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:04 Today I have three team members from Morgan's Wonderland. Morgan's Wonderland offers 25 ultra accessible attractions for all their costs. 25 acre Oasis of inclusion from a wheelchair accessible Ferris wheel to a catch and release fishing. There's truly something for everyone to enjoy. It all started in 2005. When Gordon Hartman observed his daughter Morgan, wanting to play with other vacationing kids at a hotel swimming pool, what the kids were leery of Morgan, and didn't want to interact with her then and there, he resolved to create opportunities in places where those with and without disabilities could come together. Not only for fun, but also for a better understanding of one another, that led to the construction of Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio. The doors officially opened in 2010. Today Morgan's Wonderland has expanded into inspiration Island, a waterpark straps, and adoptive in Paris sports program. Morgan's Wonderland camp and many more services on the horizon. Speaker 0 00:01:06 Their mission is to provide a safe, clean, and beautiful environment free of physical and economic barriers that all individuals, regardless of age special need or disability can come and enjoy. Morgan's Wonderland is an honor to receive numerous awards, including time magazine's 2018 world's greatest places, USA today's readers choice award for the best new water attraction of 2017 TripAdvisor certificate of excellence for the seventh consecutive year, the world water park association, leading edge award in 2017 paralyzed veterans of America, 2018 barrier free America ward. I welcome you to visit Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, and let us know how it is now for the episode. Speaker 0 00:01:55 Welcome back to another episode of freewheeling with carton. I have the Morgan's Wonderland team on zoom with me. Hello everyone. How's everyone doing? Hi. I'm really excited that you guys are here and, um, just wanted to shine a light on Morgan's Wonderland and all of the great work that you guys are doing with your theme park, your waterpark, and your multi assistance complex in your sports programs for disabilities. So why don't you guys introduce yourselves? We have a few people on the call also. Well, my name is Brooke Keirney and I'm the chief mission officer here for Morgan's Wonderland and I'm in charge of all of our development and fundraising along with communications marketing PR you know, just the small job. So just a small job. Well, great. Thanks, Brooke. And Jessica. So my name is Jessica lesser-known and I'm the general manager here at Morgan Stanley. I kind of oversee mostly just Speaker 1 00:03:00 The day to day operations, the flow of everything. I actually have been here a lot, this, these two ladies and here for a little over nine years, we've been open for Dylan. Um, we've, uh, we're supposed to be celebrating our 10th birthday this past, I mean, April 10th now a couple of months ago. Um, but we have big plans for 2021 on continuing the celebration and keeping us going. But yeah, it's, it's been a fun ride. I can say that whenever I first started, I felt like I knew nothing. Right. And then over, you know, so many years of just seeing it and loving it and hearing the stories of all of the individuals that come from all over the world, you learn so much and you get to experience what they experience. So it's, it's been a truly rewarding position and job for myself. And I can speak for these two ladies as well. Speaker 1 00:03:47 I'm sure it's been, I mean, there's some here, so it's been rewarding kind of as well and Oscar or Brooke, we'll get to you in a second. Um, do you guys have any specific relation to disabilities or were you kind of just like job opening and you took it? I started my career doing case management and social work for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Um, and then found my way into nonprofit work and loved it so much more than for-profit work. And then decided to kind of just move up the ladder, did some executive leadership, um, and ended up here at Morgan's Wonderland, which was a, a longterm goal for me. So it's been great. I found my passion in my community here in the disability arena. Um, and it's, it's just sort of like a, an adopted and found community where I feel right and I feel accepted and I feel a part of something bigger. Speaker 1 00:04:43 And so that's how I know I'm in the right place of that. That's important. I do have a, an older cousin, second cousin who does have down syndrome that I grew up with a little bit, but he's much older than I am. Um, but other than that, all of my other family members or the friends and family that come visit us here at the park. Nice. Cool. And Danny, do you want to introduce yourself? Yes. Um, so my name is Danielle hinting at IMB events and operations director here at the park that really just encompasses all of our special events. Um, we host a lot of special events to help offset our operating costs each year because we are a nonprofit. Um, and then I also oversee our volunteer program. So we work with both individual and group volunteers. So like your corporate groups or your church groups. And then I also help oversee our seasonal staff when we're in regular operation, we have our seasonal, hourly team that I help make sure they're getting trained and they're running all the rides and stuff properly. Cool. Again, not, not a big job. We don't do a lot for me to comment on that. Like w we, I think we've mentioned we are a nonprofit and usually when people follow with that, it's, we all wear different hats and we all do different things. So right now, um, you know, Brooke oversees Speaker 2 00:05:58 The hallways and she's the hallway monitor. Danny makes sure the trash is taken care of. So we're all doing odd jobs at the moment, but whenever we are in operation, we still do those odd jobs just to kind of keep us cohesive and make sure that things are done and getting done. So, yeah, we all wear different hats in this organization. Speaker 0 00:06:20 Resent. I think that if anyone goes into any nonprofit, you kind of sure you assume the title of maybe general manager, but you're also chief trash officer and chief bathroom cleaner. Speaker 2 00:06:34 We do it with a smile Speaker 0 00:06:38 Because, you know, at the end of the day, what you're doing to bring the world to a more accessible and inclusive place way outweighs, you know, having to scrap a toilet Speaker 2 00:06:46 Once in a while, a little thing. Speaker 0 00:06:50 Well, great. I kind of want to hear a little bit about the inspiration behind Morgan's Wonderland, how it was started, and maybe Jessica, you can probably speak to that because you've had some most, and the longest. Speaker 2 00:07:02 Yeah. Um, I can see that. So the way the inspiration behind Morgan's Orlando's is of course, Morgan herself are founded by Gordon Hartman. Um, his favorite title that he has is Morgan stack, right along with many other titles that he possesses, but his daughter, Morgan, he was inspired to build a place such as Morgan's Wonderland. Cause they were at a hotel pool one day and Oregon wanted to play with typical kids and they wanted to play with her, but they just didn't know how to communicate with each other and, and play together in an inclusive environment, you know, such as pool. So, um, Gordon took that moment and he was like, why can't my daughter just play with everyone else? Why does she have to fill, you know, kind of on the sidelines or let out at times, why can't she just feel, you know what? Speaker 2 00:07:46 She just wants to have a fun, you know, why can't anyone just want to have fun along with her? So he did some research and he got all the right people under his belt and he started just really small. And I can say whenever we first built Morgan's Atlanta, it was just going to be a playground and it was going to be run by volunteers. So, um, the more and more we had more people come behind us and, um, more involvement we got with the city and just interest really. Um, it grew into really what it is today. So we have a 20 over 25 acres here at Morgan Stanley and we have three and a half acres at inspiration Island and all together, it's, uh, four rides at Morgan's or LAN one riverboat, right at inspiration line, which is the water park that we were kind of mentioning earlier with the accessible wheelchairs, the pneumatic chairs that we offer along with two others as well. So it's, it's really just morphed into this enormous movement, right? But this movement for inclusion and our main focus is to see those individuals with different abilities play together with those individuals who don't have those abilities or who are typical individuals. So that is what we see on an everyday basis. And if we really truly believe that if we Speaker 1 00:08:56 Can show them at a young age, that it's okay and there's no difference that whenever you grow up and you become an adult, someone say, Hey, I always played with Billy. You know, we like to have fun. We play, we have fun in our own ways. So, you know, seeing that magic happen here at the park and everyday basis is truly inspiring. And if you ever visit out here at Cardi, which you would be able to, you'll see Morgan's face everywhere. And she is the inspiration. She is the reason that this park was built and, and continuing to grow and, you know, outsourcing to other things to where we will be serving the special needs community entirely in, in all different aspects. So yeah, it's, it's a lot, it's a lot. Speaker 0 00:09:41 So the current offerings that you guys have, so you have your water park, so inspiration Island, you have your theme park, Morgan's Wonderland, and then you also spoke to a few other things. What are some of the other programs that you all? Speaker 1 00:09:56 Yeah, so Brooke, if you want to speak a little bit more on the other entities, we're building Morgan, certainly in sports, we're building Morgan's or Lincoln camp, and we will be building them with thesis, the center, which is called the Mac here very soon in Brooklyn, provide more details on each one of those entities. Yeah. So in addition to our two parks that we have here, our 25 acre park and Morgan's Wonderland and our inspiration Island down the street here, we are, uh, have completed Morgan's Wonderland sports, which is a fully accessible ultra accessible, fully inclusive sports complex, where we will, um, all of the surfaces are hard surface. So people in or out of wheelchairs can play together, playing the same sports together. Um, we'll have sports such as pickleball courts and which is like miniature tennis, which is really fun. We all just actually played this morning. Speaker 1 00:10:44 Um, and it was a great time, uh, tennis, as well as softball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, more ball, and some other adaptive or para Olympic style sports that we'll be offering. And this complex we'll have a couple of focuses, but it's really to bring together all people. So we do focus on veterans. We have a focus on individuals with cognitive disabilities. We have programs for those that have physical disabilities. And then we're focusing on a neuro difficult person that may not have any outward physical disabilities so that everybody can play together and really experience what it's like to, you know, have sports and recreational programming together. Um, so we're really excited about that as a three acre area. And we're actually going to be partnering a little bit with the special Olympics of Texas to be offering some of their unified programming as well. That's so cool. Speaker 0 00:11:37 What is an example of, you said it was a neuro-typical sports program. Speaker 1 00:11:42 Alright. Yeah. So neuro-typical sports program would be a, your traditional basketball, basketball players in a traditional manner. Yeah. So we have a, we do work with folks that do have visual impairments or are deaf. And so we have there's different types of sports that accommodate and are specialized to different types of disabilities as well. So it's pretty cool to see all sorts of stuff going on. For example, that volleyball's a real neat one that I like watching, but it's volleyball. That's done in a seated position for somebody that may not have, uh, ambulation of their legs or may not have legs. And so everybody can really play together and it's actually really, really athletic and really impressive to watch. Cool. Speaker 0 00:12:24 So are these sports programs that anyone can sign up? Are they seasonal? Speaker 1 00:12:29 How can someone get involved? Yeah, so since this is really new to us, we are currently evolving how this is going to look, but we're looking forward to as soon as we're able to do so in a safe manner. Uh, we're hoping to be able to offer clinics and trainings as well as a bunch of different types of leagues. And that may look different adults, children, and a lot of inclusion. So we want to put everybody together that we can all play together. So you would actually just visit us on our website to keep up to date with the programming that's being situated. Had there not be for COVID-19. We would have been much more active already in league sports. And we've got some really great plans in place, but, um, just like Jessica told you earlier, we had to make that difficult decision to not open Morgan's Wonderland and inspiration Island to the general public this year. Speaker 1 00:13:18 And the reason that we did that is we truly stand for inclusion and until everybody can come play together safely, we're not gonna, we're not going to be open. We didn't think it was right. But a lot of our folks with disabilities are in a higher risk category for COVID-19. So to say, Hey, friends with disabilities don't come right now. It's not safe, but then everybody else can really just didn't sit right with us. And we are about the mission and we are going to end up taking about a one point $4 million loss this year because of that. But you can definitely see where the heart lies and what we do. And we're working extremely hard to make our park ready to go so that when we can play safely together, our doors will open and it will be just like, it always was. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:14:03 Exciting. And kind of going back to Morgan's Wonderland and inspiration Island, can you speak to some examples? Speaker 1 00:14:12 Yeah. I'll take this on Brook. So Morgan, certainly we have, all of our rides are accessible, like I mentioned earlier. So the scores for rides, what we call the dry side, right? And this is the part that's been here for 10 years. We built inspiration Morgan's inspiration Island in June 17th of 2017. Whenever we that's, when we opened our doors, that was our first day of operation there. So that one's only been open for three years, if you want to count this year and then we're going to into then of course, a little bit longer. So it was really great whenever we opened Morgan's Wonderland. And we got a lot of attention whenever we first opened in 2010, and whenever we open inspiration Island Speaker 2 00:14:52 In 2017, people were like, wait, there's a paper attached to this waterpark. Like, what is this? So it brought a lot of like interest into both parks and we got a ton of interest whenever it's Restylane open, but into the rights. Um, so for accessible rides where you do use a chair, you can ride every single one of our rights that we offer. All of our round is level, grade, really wide walkways, where you're not having to, you know, just scoot over to the side or whatnot to let someone pass everything was thought with accessibility in mind first. Whereas typically theme parks, accessibility comes second. And then that's what you run into a lot of issues of walkways, not being wide enough for, you know, Oh, I can't get on this cause there's a step and this is the only way of down or, Oh, I need to go and take an elevator. Speaker 2 00:15:37 We don't have any of that here. This park wouldn't have been built the way that it was if we didn't put a testability first. So that was our main goal and opening. Um, so at the carousel there, it, it it's, uh, it goes around like your typical carousel and then there's actually two wheelchair chariots to where if you do use a chair, you can, um, get on into the chariot and it goes around. But not only if there are, I call them the dragons, right. Um, it's just a little chart platform, but it actually goes up and down as you're going around. So you're not just stationary as you're on the carousel. And then it offered adventure. We created a platform where you can go on up and you get, it's a platform that like goes on a little lever. Um, my terminology is terrible with what I call it. I just went into more of like the moving side arm. There you go. Speaker 2 00:16:26 Thank you. Um, so you, you pull on into the back of that and then you can drive around our water tower and back to the front of the ride. The train also has two accessible spots on them as well. And then in 2015, um, we added our most recent ride, um, which was our fairs will alerts are whirling wonder, which also has an accessible gondola to that as well. So there are, uh, areas to where, um, if you're unable at the fairest, well, we actually purchased it whenever it was 11 years old from a park in Florida. And we brought it over here are what I always like to say is, uh, here at Morgan's really, we have the second largest Ferris, well in San Antonio. Um, and that there's only three of them, so yeah, big, big numbers. Speaker 2 00:17:18 So, but yeah, we have a it's five and a half stories tall is where it sits and it kind of sits on top. Yeah, you can, you can really get the sensation of, you know, writing the first hole going around. So those are the four rights that we offer it Morgan's Wonderland. And then on the dry side, the wet side Morgan's inspiration Island, that's where we have the riverboat ride. Um, we had five accessible splash pads. There's no summer water whatsoever. So you don't have to worry about going under or anything like that. It's all splash pads. If you do come in a wheelchair and you'll be greeted our wheelchair valet, if you use a manual chair, we can transfer you into a manual chair. We have seven different changing rooms too, that are equipped with wireless. So can you assistance transferring? Um, you can have that available to you. Speaker 2 00:18:02 So you'll go in, you'll get transferred. We have a wheelchair Valley specialist that goes in and sizes you and says, okay, we know exactly what chair you need. Um, you have free to protect your chairs once a you're probably familiar with them, a key mobility, uh, conveyed, which is more of like your shoulder type chairs. And then our third chairs, the pneumatic chair, which is fully functioned off of scuba tanks. They're actually 11 in the world and we have 10 of them here. So pretty awesome chairs. And the way those work, those are for those individuals who use power chairs. And, um, as you know, you can't take a power chair into water cause you would get stuck. So, um, this is a way that we can offer those individuals to get transferred from their power chairs, into one of our pneumatic chairs and continue to maneuver and play along with their siblings or their family members throughout the splash pads and still get wet and enjoy their time with their family members that they haven't been able to do. Speaker 2 00:18:55 One whenever we first opened in 2017, the story always sticks with me. We had a woman actually. I think she was like in her late twenties or early thirties always been in a wheelchair and he was getting transferred into a power chair. And, um, she, whenever she came out of, you know, playing and, and having all the time, fun time at the splash pads, she came up to me and she was like, I've never been able to be in a splash pad with my family. And she just started crying, you know? And she was like, this was the best experience I've ever had. She won't, she stayed the entire day because she had so much fun. She was like, I've never been able to do this because she's always been, you know, left out. So in order for us to provide that opportunity for her, it was a really great experience, which is why I said in the beginning, what I do and what we all do is really rewarding because we get to hear those stories and not only her story, but that's one story out of the hundreds and thousands that we hear on an everyday basis of the lives that we were able to change and the memories that we were going to make with those families and then them take those memories back to their families, um, and have those for our lifetime. Speaker 2 00:20:01 So along with the new chairs and getting in and out, we have a riverboat Ryan as well. Um, just kind of takes you on a lagoon path, I guess, lazy river in a way with different animals, animatronic animals that kind of come out, don't come at you, but you know, they move as you're going around on, on the lagoon path and you can do that in your wheelchair. You don't have to transfer out of your chair to get into that ride, but you're really able to do anything and everything here at either park, regardless of your ability or disability. And that was one of the things that we really strive for, um, to make us a hundred percent accessible where people can't tell us, Oh, I can't do that because of XYZ. We always like to say, well, why not? Like prove us wrong? You know, like, yes, you can do that. You know? So, um, Speaker 1 00:20:48 And we can show you that you can do that. So everything we do is to make is to remove all barriers that could potentially exist so that we a place here at sports at our new camp facility that we can talk about soon, as well as the multi assistance center so that families and individuals can come and not have to worry about the barriers that exist in a traditional setting. We've got adult changing cables here. We have lifts here. We have paid attention to the little things, and then you can talk about that a lot, but we pay attention to very little things that end up making a really big difference to our guests. And we know we're going to make a huge difference to our campers, as well as the patients that go to the multi assistance center and our athletes at the sports you guys covered so much. Speaker 1 00:21:34 And I just like have so many questions. Um, I kind of wanted to take a step back with, um, the you're talking about this, the different rides and how you're able to get into them. So, um, it sounds like some of them, I can just literally roll up in my wheelchair and get on them. How many of those require actual transfers? None. None of them. So that was the idea. Arc is like, if you wanted to go into the water, you would transfer into it over chair. Okay. Got it. And that's your, that's your choice too? I mean, there are some people who use their own chairs, but the most prideful piece of that chair I would say would be the seat, right? Like, cause then you're stuck in that seat all day long. So we offer a chair with a drink seat and you can transfer. And also you don't have to worry about getting your chair ruined or, you know, water and chlorine and all that good stuff. But Danny can speak a little bit more on, um, on the, on the transferring. Speaker 1 00:22:32 That's so great. Cause actually it's a really big fall risk. It's an injury risk, just so many things that come with transfers. If you don't have the right people to help you or the right tools to help transfer you properly. Yeah. Um, that was kind of the idea behind all of the rides whenever they were, the ideas were coming up and what was going to be implemented into the park. Part of the reason that we say ultra accessible, um, is meaning that you are able to participate by the means that you have with you already. Um, so we don't think that you should have to transfer out of your wheelchair in order to be able to ride because your chair is honestly an extension of yourself. Um, it's already, it helps you be mobile. So if we're just handing you a board and saying here, please side across those, so you can get into our chair. That's not really us adapting to you. That's just us adapting to us. So, um, that was kind of one of the big things that we wanted to be different from other parks in is just being able to say, it's okay, however you come, we're going to make it work. And you're going to be able to enjoy everything here. And what if you did want to transfer? Are there volunteers or is the park staff Speaker 0 00:23:46 Trained to help assist with that when they use a hoist lift if needed. Yeah. So Speaker 2 00:23:53 It is really your choice on any other rides. If you do want to transfer a lot of times, we actually see transferring happening with the smaller kiddos who are eventually going to need a full time chair. Um, but they're just not there yet. So we'll see it a lot of just like, Hey, I just want to ride in the seat or yes, I do want to go, you know, in my chair, but it's, it's generally, we don't have lifts at the rides, but we do have plenty of staff and caregivers, um, nearby lots of volunteers, but most of the time it's, um, I came with my family, my friends, my caregiver, and they're going to help me assist in that transfer so that we can get on and ride safely. Speaker 0 00:24:30 Nice. Cause that would be one thing like for me being an adult, I usually am very independent and like going on and doing everything on my own. Generally. I'm like, I don't usually have people with me to like transfer me or like whatever. Like I usually just figure it out. And so being able to like independently come to Morgan's Wonderland, inspiration Island and not having to transfer, that's like a huge burden. Like I already am excited. Speaker 2 00:24:58 Um, so we can't wait for you to come visit. You're going to be blown away. And some other things that Danny could expand on too is a lot. If we have a Wharf and a fishing area and we have different levels of railings so that you can stay in your chair and fish alongside someone that may prefer to stand upright while they're fishing. And you'll see that around the park too. Speaker 0 00:25:19 That's awesome. And speaking, uh, Jessica, you were talking about just accessibility in general and having that be first idea in mind, the first value, and I'm wondering, are you in collaboration with other theme parks that maybe like a six flags or a whitewater or something like that, have they come to you and asked on how to make their parks more inclusive or accessible? Or are you still kind of siloed? Speaker 2 00:25:49 I cannot explain how much interest we get from people, not only from the States, but literally all over the world. We are the only park that does what we do. Um, and we have worldwide recognition. Um, I believe it was in 2018. We actually were, um, ranked as one of the top 100 places to visit in the world by time magazine. And that was a huge honor for us. So we'll say that the interest that we get it is an every day thing. Our emails are, you know, constantly going, Hey, I want to build this park. Hey, I just read about you guys. Hey, how do I do this? And we're here like, Hey, yeah, we'll give you the advice because our thing is, we want there to be other places like this are, we just can't fund it. Right? So, um, we always say, if you have the interest and you have the right people behind you and you can do what we did, this was our model. Speaker 2 00:26:41 Feel free, you know, go, go at it, we'll give you all the right tools and things that you need in order to make more park accessible. Even if it's, you know, Oh, I added an accessible suite that is one step further, right. Or before. And that's really what we're trying to do is get this movement and not just in the theme parks, but you know, airports, hotels, um, you know, apartment complexes, you name it and every place needs to be accessible. And we're just one voice for the community to say like, look, these are the reasons it needs to be accessible. So, but yeah, I will say people from all over the world, emails, phone calls, what can we do? How do we do this? What did you do? That's really great, awesome Speaker 0 00:27:22 Guys, or false have become just this expert in the field because you're doing it right. You're setting that example and it's nice to have people come to you. Speaker 2 00:27:32 Oh I can. We, uh, we've learned a lot over the last 10 years. They can say, you know, because we're a parked, that's really have never done this before. And we broke down those barriers and we're continuing to break down those barriers we've learned and grown have grown so much in 10 years to where we really feel that we have a hand on things and we can't offer expert advice and, and let lead people in the right direction to make the right choices and do what they need to do in order to become more accessible for, for their community. Speaker 0 00:28:02 That's really awesome. I love that. Just expanding on making the world a more accessible place and talking with all these other just industry and other theme parks that are trying to start up as well. And thinking about the stories of that come to you and people that experienced Morgan's Wonderland for the first time, or maybe it's their hundredth time coming. Talk to me about some of the stories that you guys have heard. Maybe some of the most memorable ones Speaker 2 00:28:30 Y'all want me to go first. Okay. So one story I tell all the time, cause it's still like touching me. I still get goosebumps every time I tell it, but I was, I do a lot of tours here. Right? I do a lot of tours here. So anytime there's a tour, I'm typically the one who goes out and shows them around and just kind of let them know where everything is and all that good stuff. Um, so there was one woman in particular, this was, this was home man. I was, it was a while back, um, that, that this happened, but I had a woman come and approach me after the end of the day, then we're park operational day. And she said, are you the manager? Can I speak to you? And automatically don't ever start a question off with that. Like, you're my heart rate starts like pounding because I automatically think like, Oh my gosh, something's wrong. Speaker 2 00:29:16 There's blood, there's broken arms. What happened? How can I help you? Um, and she said, um, well I just want to let you know that my son is 18 years old and he's never been on a sweetened. And he was able to be honest when here. And she was like, this is his first time. So hearing that and she of course started crying. I started crying cause we have wheelchair accessible swings to where, if you are using the chair, you can enough to our swing and you can swing just like everybody else. You don't have to transfer you're in your own element and it's just, it's swinging. Right? So it's a little things that we take for granted on an everyday basis that her son and others, like her son haven't been able to experience. So, and not only Historia had a, you know, a woman who had CP, she was 43 years old and she was on the swing for the first time. And she was on there for three hours just swinging and laughing the entire time because she had so much fun. And, you know, just seeing and witnessing those types of stories and those little things that we take for granted, it really kind of like puts you into a place where like, wow, this is, this is a fantastic place to play and have fun. And to see everyone else have fun. And I'm glad I get to experience it every day. My story is next. Speaker 0 00:30:30 I will just say, there's nothing worse than feeling excluded from something, especially cause you know, obviously I have a disability and I'm excluded from the world in so many things all the time. And there's nothing worse than just feeling like you can't participate or someone tells you no and it's not no, because of just, you know, no, it's all in their head, but it's no, we built it to be an accessible or we've built it to put barriers in place. And Oh, well we didn't really think about that or, Oh, we didn't really, you know, think about that other special exception. Right. And of course what I love seeing these kinds of places that are ultra accessible as you guys coin, I love that accessibility first should be everywhere because you can become disabled at any point in your life. You know, whether it's temporary, permanent, old age, whatever it is. So we, all our bodies are not meant to be superhuman forever. So what is the age range that comes to your parks? Speaker 2 00:31:38 Typical age range that we have here is about three to 10 for a typical age. We always see them kind of a falling off. We call them the tweener age. Um, you know, like, uh, 13, 14, 15, 16, but that's special of individuals with disabilities or special needs. We see them from any age senior citizens. There was actually one day we had a woman, she was, um, turning a hundred years old and she wanted to wear carousel. So we found, we found them individual. They found a little baby who was one years old. And we took a picture with the woman who was a hundred years old in the carousel. So it was pretty cool to see the difference of them and their age, but then still being able to have fun regardless of their age or ability or disability. So, but yeah, a typical age is about three to 10 give or take and then special needs or different abilities can range from all over. Um, really, really just comes from all over. Speaker 0 00:32:33 That's awesome. And Danny, I kind of wanted to flip into the operation side of it. You know, being operations, you're always looking at how to make things more efficient, more accessible, more everything. Right. So what are some of the things that you have helped improve at Morgan's Wonderland since you've started? Speaker 1 00:32:51 Oh goodness. I, what have you learned? I've learned so much. So Jess and Brooke had kind of had a chance to answer this. It's how they got started working here at the park and mine was kind of different because I have a background in theme parks. Um, that's what I went to school for and I wanted to do a music park management. So when I moved to San Antonio, I really didn't know anything about the park, but I was looking for like, I want to work in a park. And I was like, I don't really want to work at six flags. Like SeaWorld is like on the way other side of town. And I found Morgan's Wonderland and I fallen in love with the mission as well as like the operation being able to be a part of everything. I would say the biggest changes that we've seen is just be kind of just improving the processes that we have. Speaker 1 00:33:40 I've just, we really try to just scrutinize every single rule and everything that we put in process with all of our employees of, yes, we do focus a lot on our guests, but what's cool about our team is that a lot of our team, a large majority of it, usually anywhere from a third to a half, depending on what part of the season that we're in does have a different ability or does, you know, they're on a different, a different spectrum or a different whatever it is, but we're always just trying to streamline every job that we have here in the park, just so that we can offer the best experience possible to any of our guests that walk through the doors. But it's also not a job that excludes any of our employees. So if we need to clean something or if we need to, to work out something, to make a process for aligned to move faster, we always try to make it as simple and as easy as we can so that everyone can be a part of it. Speaker 1 00:34:31 Cool. That's important if I can, if I can just act to Danny to, um, so our team that she oversees once a third of our team members have a different ability or a special need. So, um, I mean our typical season right now, we would be operating that probably a hundred, 105 employees to cover staffing within both parks. And so about 30 to 40 of those employees do have a different ability or special needs. So it's really great to see the interaction of those who maybe have never experienced, um, interacting with someone with a different ability to see them learn, you know, just communicating and things that just be yourself really. You don't have to act any differently around individuals. So yeah, that's something that, that she oversees in along with our volunteers, which is also what she oversees. And we have a big portion of our volunteer program that do come with different abilities and are able to do jobs and tasks that they've been told no at other places. So it's a pretty big piece as well. Speaker 0 00:35:32 I'm sure you guys have training or, you know, empathy training and other trainings on how to interact with different disabilities or different, you know, is it sensory? Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it cognitive, whatever the case may be. Do you train your volunteers as well as staff on that on regular basis? Speaker 1 00:35:51 We do. Um, so we have, of course, you know, just if you were gonna go get a job at McDonald's or anywhere else, like you have your orientation and then like you're on the job training, but a piece of that that ties into both volunteers and to our employees, we have a class called introduction to inclusion, and this is actually a outreach piece that we have made. Um, so we also teach it out in the community as well. And we've kind of just taken bits and pieces from, um, the down syndrome association or, um, buy a house for the blind or any of the other organizations that we have around town, our community partners, um, of just, you know, like how, how do you want the world to interact with you? Or, you know, how can we meet you in the middle kind of thing? Speaker 1 00:36:35 And it's just a really good overview of, you know, if you're having a longer conversation with an individual in a chair, you know, like how do you do that? Or, you know, like let's not speak slowly just because you think that they can't understand, but they really can. So it's all of those just kind of general rules, um, you know, like how do you interact with a service animal? And you know, let's not just run after the dog or anything, then it may be. Um, so we, we do have that. We put all of our volunteers through that orientation, along with all of our staff. And so they, they all get a good overview of who we are and what we do in the park a long way, you know how to interact with everybody that they may come across in the park too. Speaker 0 00:37:18 That's so important because whenever you have volunteers interacting with other individuals who have disabilities are differently, abled end date, you just don't know how to interact with them. Especially I could see it with the nonverbal community. And this is something that I learned recently is most people who are nonverbal, they understand you, they just don't have the means to communicate. And so oftentimes kind of like how people speak to those who have an interpreter, they speak to the interpreter and not to the actual individual, so that it's so important to just train, build empathy, all that. So I really liked the community outreach piece on that and making that a public training feel like all companies should do. Speaker 1 00:38:02 Yeah, it's, it's really helpful in just from teaching it and volunteer orientation. And then with our staff, I mean, our staff is a little different cause they, they know our mission. What they're walking into our volunteers are not always that way. Um, you know, they've, they've come across our website or they've heard from a friend of, you know, you can volunteer here or we have a park, but they don't always know, you know, exactly what they're getting into. So when we do that orientation, we have the intro to inclusion piece of it. It really kind of opens up the room and they'll ask, you know, it's a safe place to ask questions of like, Oh, and you kind of hear it from the crowd and everyone that is in there, it's just like, Oh, I didn't know. Like we don't use that word or, you know, like, Oh, I didn't know that I should do this instead of this. And it's just kind of like, now I can take this. I feel confident. And being able to go out and not only serve here in the park, but being able to, you know, whether I'm out with my family and something, you know, we come across another individual or, you know, how am I going to teach my children? It just kind of opens everything up so they can continue to teach others Speaker 0 00:39:05 Building this little army. That's going to be able to take over the world that knows how to interact properly Speaker 1 00:39:10 People with disabilities. I love it. That's the goal. We want that to be the case. Speaker 0 00:39:17 Oh, that's so great. I love hearing this. And um, I kinda, the last segment I wanted to touch on the Mac. So the multi assistance Speaker 1 00:39:27 Complex multisystems complex Speaker 0 00:39:30 Center center. Okay. And, um, this is so cutting edge Speaker 1 00:39:34 And I would love to see something like that. Speaker 0 00:39:36 So tell me and tell our listeners what it is and what we can look forward to that's coming. Speaker 1 00:39:43 Yeah. So the multi assistance center or the Mac as we call it, the Mac at Morgan's Wonderland is a revolutionary, a unique center that we're creating, which is going to be sort of a one stop shop model that provides access to medical and nonmedical services all in one location. So it's a comprehensive care model that we're creating. There's a platform that we're going to be using similar to a traditional, uh, EMR electronic medical record so that people can go see a primary care physician. But then that information from that visit is communicated over to the eye doctor. That's on the second floor and that's communicated to the dentist, that's down the hall. One of the things that we know with folks that do have disabilities is that they're asked to tell their story and their history many, many times. Speaker 1 00:40:36 And so we truly believe that if we can create a team of people that can help care for the whole person, the whole body, the whole mind, and we keep that information electronic, and then we can use the data to process referrals and predict and all sorts of really awesome stuff that now that we're in the 2020s, I think we're going to see some cool things. And we truly think that we can optimize and, and truly make efficient the care for folks that have disabilities or other special needs. We're we are planning to build this across the street from Morgan's Wonderland. So when you come down here, you'll see that we hope to break ground on this 165,000 square foot, better 64,000 easy, 165,000 square foot building. That will be stories tall. You'll be able to see it from our welcome center here. Um, but it's just right across the street and we're going to be breaking ground in the first quarter of 2021. Speaker 1 00:41:37 Um, and that's just in line with the camp that we briefly discussed as well, as soon as camp is completed, then they're going to kind of run over here and start building this giant three story building. And, you know, we have the plans and renderings and it's just every day becoming more and more real. The other neat thing is, is that we're basically creating the facility and the care model, and we're working with other nonprofits and businesses and clinicians that know how to do it well. So we, uh, in, in everything that we do truly believe that partnership and collaboration is the way to make the biggest difference. So we're working with a local healthcare provider. That's going to be the primary care physician clinic here. We're working with nonprofits that provide different things from mobility to ABA therapy, et cetera, who will come in and then they will sort of live in our building and function through our model to be able to care for these individuals effectively, we estimate that we will be able to serve about 11,000 people, which is a tremendous amount of, of people. However, it is barely scratching the surface. And so we hope to, with this model that we're creating, create something that can be replicated across the nation so that we can again, be stronger together and collaborate and make a true difference. And so, uh, I'm beyond excited about, um, yeah, Speaker 0 00:43:01 Ooh, I get goosebumps. He was thinking about it because right now the current challenges that I face, I don't have a car and I live alone. So having to go across town, you know, you have the dentist appointment at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, and then you have your primary care doctor two weeks later on a Friday, you know, at three o'clock. And so as an adult, I'm having to take so much time off and just like one hour, two hour, three hour segments, just to get things done and I'm going all over town. And it's like, why can't it all just be in one location, Speaker 1 00:43:36 Talk to each other. And also all of us as human beings have very complex systems, right by nature. And so if the dentist can know what's going on with this position or going on over here, it makes things so much easier. And what's neat that I fell dimension is that by us creating the map, we're really through everything that we do through the Morgan's Wonderland entities, serving the whole person. So we're actually going to have a housing section over at the max. So if you or your family is in need of housing assistance or needing assistance for federal benefits or insurance or attorney, we will have that all in house at one facility. So you'll know as a trusted group of individuals. And in addition to the Mack over at the camp, we're actually partnering with the San Antonio food bank and they're actually building a 4,000 well it's already been built, but a 4,000 square foot distribution center and kitchen and Morgan's Wonderland camp will be the only distribution center for the food bank of San Antonio, which is, has a huge area as we're the seventh largest city in the nation on the North side of town. Speaker 1 00:44:44 And that's revolutionary because over on the North side of town, people had to rely on small food pantries like at churches. And this is going to be a massive, massive undertaking. That's really going to help a lot of our rural families. So we're just excited to be able to think of again, the whole person, the whole need the whole mind, and how do we best accommodate for every need break down every barrier and make somebody feel like they're welcome and a part of it. And so through all of the things that we're doing, we truly feel like that's what, what we're doing. And we hope to create this. As Jessica said, we've created this movement in this culture that we wish to spread across the country and the world. And so being able to talk to awesome people like you, Cardin is what makes us happy because now we know that we're spreading it just a little bit further. Yeah, totally. And so this, you said it's a food distribution center. Is it just like a traditional food bank or will you be cooking meals for me? Speaker 1 00:45:42 Great question. Because cooking is challenging for me. It's I don't have a lot of use of my arm, my upper body and already cause I have muscular dystrophy, so I have a progressive loss of muscle. And so over time it's just gone more and more challenging to do those everyday tasks. I absolutely understand that. So at the food bank area, it's actually built into our camp center. And so in addition to the food storage and the distribution, they're also going to be the ones that are cooking hot meals for all 525 campers at the camp. Plus there's going to be, they're going to be able to do hot meals every day for meals on wheels, which is a huge nonprofit here in our area. You know, it's all over the country, but meals on wheels is very big in San Antonio because of how spread out we all are. Speaker 1 00:46:29 And so there'll be able to actually have hot food that we can distribute to families in need in addition to the dry goods or produce or perishables. So really it's a, they're doing a lot of things and it's just mind blowing to even have the honor to be a part of it in a very small way. Yeah. And that's so cool. And just thinking about COVID and how it's placed a very significant burden, not only on just the world, but especially the disability community, because a lot of them now they're part of that vulnerable population. They can't easily just go out to the grocery store. Maybe they can't have their personal care assistants come to their house because their risk of getting sick. And so, you know, how are they getting food and proper nutrition? And I think this is going to help close that gap. Speaker 1 00:47:14 Is that the goal? Absolutely. And that's, we're fully committed to finding the gaps and identifying nonprofits and people in the community that already do things well and then helping them do it better. And we absolutely identify those life needs such as food and water. And we focus on that as well. But during this COVID time that Morgan's Wonderland has not been able to be open to the public. We are constantly working towards ways to be relevant and to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of everyone in the community. So we're even doing, we have a new, a new segment that we're working with our local news station called inclusion Tuesdays. And on Tuesdays, we're able to feature a new outreach about what we do and why it's important to be inclusive and accessible. We're going to be doing some parades for different people in town to bring them joy to their house. Speaker 1 00:48:07 So, you know, while our, while I say our first goal is not spending right now, I guarantee you our minds and our hearts are, and we're committed to continuing to support our friends now, you know, more than ever. And I love that. And just, just because one door closes doesn't mean you're just going to sit there stagnant and sounds like you guys are really moving and shaken to make the world more accessible, inclusive, just thinking about all those gaps that, you know, I, I know I can personally speak to and just the inequities that we face on a daily basis. So I just really want to say, thank you, even though I'm not personally using your services, I know there's countless of other people that are, and I look forward to coming and meeting you all and hanging out at Morgan's Waterland. You're always welcome here. Speaker 1 00:48:54 And you're here, not by you, I'm even talking about inclusion and making accessibility something on the forefront of mind. And you're part of the same culture that we're a part of. And we're talking about your family. Yeah. And give us your plugs. Where can we sign you? Your social media channels, all that. Yeah, sure. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. You can follow at Morgan's Wonderland or visit us at www dot Morgan's We have got some really awesome things that are getting ready to roll out here in the next month. So please get on our newsletter, follow us on social media. And just a reminder that Morgan's Wonderland is a hundred percent nonprofit and it's supported by people in the community like you and your listeners. And we rely on you guys to help us be able to spread our messages across the world and ask that you take time today to share this with someone else so that we can continue and further our mission. Well, thank you so much, Jessica, Brooke and Danny, I really appreciate your time and all that you guys are doing in the world to make it more accessible. Thank you. Bye. Speaker 3 00:50:06 Thank you friends for listening. Please rate and follow this podcast or text card at (470) 588-1215 with comments and suggestions tune in next week for another disability topic.

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