Tuesday, August 4, 2015

San Antonio: Welcome to Morgan's Wonderland!

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We anticipated a very hot day at Morgan's Wonderland before we traveled (being an outdoor activity) so we purchased a product called Geleeo, which is a cooling liner designed for baby strollers.  We gambled on it working and it did!  Fabulous product.  If you have a child that overheats in hot weather or has difficult regulating temperature I recommend it.   With our Geleeo installed in Noah's Convaid Trekker Wheelchair off we headed towards a day of accessible amusement park fun! 

We were greeted by the Project Angel Fares team and Channel Fox 29 news when we arrived.  Our excitement was just overflowing.   We never dreamed that Noah would ever have the opportunity to visit Morgan's.  And here we were!  We were given wrist bands for the sensory areas and bands so that if a child gets separated from you that they can easily be found.  They have a giant map on the wall with lots of little butterflies demonstrating all the visitors to Morgan's Wonderland from each state.  We placed our butterfly on the map.  Our little stamp that we had been there! 
We did some interviews for Fox 29 for a piece they were doing on Project Angel Fares and Morgan's Wonderland, and spent some lovely time with Morgan's staff and Project Angel Fares.  They are the warmest and most loving people you could ever wish to meet.  I wish they would have been able to spend the entire day with us.  We enjoyed their company so much.  When you enter Morgan's Wonderland the first thing you come to are two giant hands holding a butterfly.  The butterfly has always felt symbolic for the special needs journey; as a butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal in your life and still become something beautiful.  It is the most perfect statute for a place like Morgan's Wonderland.  It felt like looking at hope, and an instant reminder of what mattered most.  These precious moments.

Luke immediately scampered off, and I don't think I have seen him more happier in his life.  He had hit playground heaven.  And Noah and daddy quickly followed and chased Luke up a playground that was fully handicapped accessible.  There was nothing that Noah could not do.  It's kind of hard to imagine it - as our days are full of obstacles that being barrier free with a wheelchair was such a wonderful feeling.  Noah was in pure delight.  Smiles, giggles and full body extension spoke volumes about the joy Noah was experiencing.  The park is much bigger than I imagined and there is so much to do.  We only did each activity once, simply due to the heat but if it had been cooler we would have done every activity there multiple times. 
It's hard to have a favorite thing about Morgan's Wonderland because every activity within the park is so well thought out and perfect in accessibility.  They even considered the heat and had large fans that were  blowing water mist throughout the park.  All activities from train rides, to carousals, to car rides were all fully accessible allowing the child to remain in a wheelchair.   Everything dreams of made of when you have a child that is confined to a wheelchair and is very limited in being able to participate and play like other children can.  Noah got to fish for the very first time in his life from an accessible dock that was fully sheltered from the sun.  Although we did have one good strong bite, we lost the fish and never were able to pull one from the water.  (Which hopefully is a sign that someday we'll be lucky enough for find our way back to Morgan's to give it another try).  They are expanding Morgan's and building a water park that opens in 2017 that will have amazing accessible features.   I am crossing my fingers and toes that we'll find a way to get Noah back to see it. 

They also had a Toyota Accessible vehicle display in the park.  Three vehicles that any family with a child in a wheelchair would simply drool over.  Noah's daddy had to sell his truck a few years ago to help pay for Noah's out of pocket medical and equipment costs.  Something that was really hard for him and for us to do.  He loved his truck.  But we were really out of options financially so through the years we've sold off many of our possessions just to try to keep going for Noah.  So when Chris laid his eyes on A Toyota Sienna that had an extended cab with captain's chair in the back seat with one that lowered to the ground to transfer Noah up and into the truck and a hitch mounted lift to lift Noah's wheelchair into the truck bed with a shell that would retract for easy loading and I think I seen his mouth hit the floor.  Drool would have followed but I think it was so hot it evaporated quickly.  Chris was staring at his dream vehicle - and the idea that it was accessible for all of Noah's needs made it that much sweeter.  Yet the price likely makes it a dream that may never be reached retailing at around $40,000.  Accessible vehicles have some really tough prices.  

I think that is what made Morgan's so special.  When you have a child with special needs you watch all your dreams slowly die one by one, and your life gets more altered with each passing day.  I was watching Noah & Luke's dreams come alive - and even Chris' seeing that truck and holding out hope that maybe someday it could be real, and mine as well as my biggest dreams are moments of us all playing together as a family without limits.  Morgan's Wonderland is a place of possibility.  It felt magical there. 
They had amazing sensory areas and green screens for children.  Children of all abilities could make virtual paintings that are automatically emailed to you so you can save your child's masterpiece all by a programed wristband.  Sensory activities for vestibular motion like riding mechanical horses, and playing like you were shopping with a miniature store. 

Morgan's also has an incredible event center where they hold events and activities.  So much thought and effort went into building that park.  Sometimes I find myself looking at things and saying if only they asked a special needs parent we could make things a million times better - but there is not one thing that Morgan's could have done or built better than they did.  It is special needs perfection. 

Noah got to meet Humphrey - a turtle that wanted to hang out under his wheelchair.  Which was really kind of sweet.   And sadly Luke mis-stepped and didn't see that there was a tiny gecko by his feet which was a tad traumatic for him once he realized what had happened, I wasn't sure how to explain that to Luke or how to comfort him properly through that, so I rather ushered him to another part of the park and tried to distract his thoughts with another activity.  Honestly I was just praying we'd see another gecko so he'd think it was still alive to make it easier on him, but we never did. 
We had some hotdogs at the park at the concessions stand, decent food I thought and we sat at a large picnic area and had lunch together.  That was our very first picnic together as a family.  Noah almost being 7 years old and our first picnic lunch with picnic tables.  I think people can't really understand the significance of how limited our experiences are having a child that is severely disabled so something like this you can't even really properly put into words.  When we were inside Morgan's Wonderland we were a "normal" family in every sense of the word.  There was not one thing there we couldn't all do together; the place of ultimate family participation.

If you'd like to watch our news story about our trip to Morgan's Wonderland you can find it here

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.' Maya Angelou Love,

Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.