By Robert Goetz, 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public AffairsAugust 18, 2011
SAN ANTONIO -- One of the world's most unique amusement parks was the setting for an event last week that brought together a special group of military families.
The second annual Joint Base San Antonio Special Needs Resource Fair and Activity Day at Morgan's Wonderland Aug. 5 offered special-needs families from Randolph and Lackland Air Force Bases and Fort Sam Houston an opportunity to learn about military and community programs that meet their needs.
It also gave them a chance to enjoy the rides, games and other features of a 25-acre facility billed as "the world's first ultra-accessible family fun park" and "a place where all ages and abilities can come together and play."
"Morgan's Wonderland is designed for children with special needs," said Ericka O'Bryant, resource fair volunteer and Brooke Army Medical Center community health nurse. "It allows a family to come here as a unit. This event lets families know what resources are available in the community that can help and assist them."
More than 30 organizations and programs from the San Antonio community and the military sector set up tables in the park's event center to give information to families enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program.
The Department of Defense program identifies medical and educational needs of family members in support of active-duty sponsor reassignment.
"I love doing this event because the population is so appreciative," said Leslie Walter, Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children outreach coordinator. "I love this environment, too. It's conducive to a resource fair like this."
Other agencies represented included The Arc of San Antonio, Children's Association for Maximum Potential, Blossom Center for Children and the Autism Behavioral Association.
Lt. Col. Phuong Tran, Air Force Recruiting Service Information Systems Division chief, whose daughter, Dawn, is a special-needs child, said he was impressed with the facility's staff, especially their patience. He said his family found the resource fair educational.
"There are some resources we weren't even aware of," he said.
The event also featured performances by dancers, singers and musicians from Lackland and Fort Sam Houston and twirlers from a San Antonio high school.
Col. John Lamoureux, 502nd Mission Support Group commander, told participants the resource fair is about three things " having fun, learning and commitment.
"I would encourage everyone to get out there and learn about all these different programs that are available through the military and through our local community," he said.
Lamoureux noted the commitment of Gordon Hartman, the philanthropist who pursued a dream to build a theme park geared to his daughter, Morgan, and other children with special needs; the military "and what it has for all those with special needs in the EFMP program;" and the local community.
"So the commitment is evident all through today," he said. "I can tell just by the looks of this place, we're doing pretty well. I'm told that we have approximately double the number of folks that we had last year. You can see the commitment is out there and the people willing to take advantage of this program are there as well."
For more information about the EFMP, call (210) 221-0285.