My Time At Morgan’s Wonderland

Morgan’s Wonderland changed my life. Now, most say this, but take it lightly. *Did that place really change your life?* For me, as I sit at the airport awaiting my plane back home, I feel as if a piece of my heart rests in the Welcome Center of Morgan’s Wonderland. 

Not only did Morgan’s Wonderland serve as my home away from home for a week, but San Antonio welcomed me with open arms and a warm smile. The people, places, food, and weather were a welcome reprieve from the monotony of my small-town-girl-from-outside-of-Pittsburgh lifestyle. 

Kaitlyn (my travel partner from Gettysburg College) and I shared our experience together. Throughout the week, we were able to express our excitement and awe over our new surroundings together. 

We were given this amazing opportunity through Gettysburg College’s Externship program, and it couldn’t have been possible without Frank Martin, a Gettysburg College Alumni. Frank welcomed us with open arms into San Antonio, and immersed us in his life in and out of Morgan’s Wonderland. We couldn’t begin to thank Frank enough for everything he did for us throughout the week. 

The first day (Sunday) that we were in San Antonio, our host introduced us to true Mexican food.
Some of the many pictures from Lackland, Randolph, and Fort Sam Houston military bases. Kaitlyn and I were just a little bit excited about getting to experience the unique animals in the Quadrangle of Fort Sam Houston Army Base! We also visited the Riverwalk and learned a great deal about the Alamo during our first day.

DAY 1: During our first day “on the job”, Kaitlyn and I were introduced to some of the employees at Morgan’s Wonderland. In addition, we were given a more in-depth tour of the park, learned how the park’s activities were organized for different groups, and taught the ins and outs of the Educational Field Trips (EFTs).

Shown on the right: Me answering the phone before the office worker came in for the day. On the left: Frank teaching the weather for an EFT.

DAY 2: Tuesday of our trip, Kaitlyn and I were given a much more in-depth look into the STRAPS program (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Sports). In addition, we were given a tour of the CRIT center across the street from Morgan’s Wonderland. CRIT (Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA) is for children who are born with or have suffered neurological, muscular, or skeletal disorders and injuries. The center was incredible, and opened my eyes to the vast need for more programs of its kind.

Right: A picture from the sensory room at CRIT, Left: A picture in the events center of the STRAPS logo.

DAY 3: The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t be more true for today. There’s no way to express in words how much fun we had in and out of Morgan’s Wonderland today. We were given the honor of meeting Gordon Hartman, the owner/founder of Morgan’s Wonderland. We were also able to shadow the entertainment director of the park and experience the smiles that she sees everyday from her dance party. Finally, we were taken on a sightseeing trip through downtown for dinner with an ’86 alumni of Gettysburg College.

DAY 4: Today the park was rained out, but we were still given the privilege of attending a luncheon at the Morgan’s Wonderland events center. The luncheon was held to honor Gordon and Maggie Hartman with the humanitarian award through the National Jewish Health organization. After the luncheon, Kaitlyn and I met with various park employees, including the General Manager, the Assistant General Manager, and one of the Events Coordinators, about what their roles entail at the park.

Kaitlyn and I with our externship host for the week, Frank Martin. We were finally able to get a picture altogether at the luncheon.

DAY 5: Sadly, today was our last day at the park. We helped with small tasks throughout the park in addition to running the Mom’s Coffee and Conversation event in the morning before the park opened. At the end of our day, we were given a tour of The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland, which was given the first accreditation for a special needs school in Texas while we were here this week.

In summation, my time at Morgan’s Wonderland was far more than just a learning experience. It was a week full of growth, wonder, and hope for the future. As I watched kids, young and old, play and interact throughout the week at the park, it was as if violence, trauma, and disparity didn’t exist outside of the paradise that was Morgan’s Wonderland. The innocence and light-heartedness of the park allowed for Kaitlyn and I to fully immerse ourselves in what it meant to be a part of Morgan’s Wonderland. I whole-heartedly believe that a piece of me will forever remain at Morgan’s Wonderland, and I hope to return one day soon. The non-profit community that Gordon Hartman created has allowed for the blossoming of opportunity for children who are finally given a voice.