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Heart to Heart

A Future of Possibilities


Everyone looks for enjoyment in life. Whether you’re born with a disability or acquired one, finding opportunities to be physically active, have fun, or connect with others can sometimes seem like a challenge. We recently caught up with a few organizations that have created unique outdoor experiences designed to make living an active life easier for people of all abilities..


A PATH International Premier Accredited Center offering six equine-assisted therapy programs for ages 2 to 26, Saddle Up! is located in Franklin, Tennessee. According to Executive Director Audrey Kidd, the program serves children and young adults with a wide range of disabilities including physical and intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Our programs encompass therapeutic and adaptive riding as well as equine assisted learning, including the opportunity to participate in annual competitions and summer camp,” she said. “Our riders come here because of the care of trained instructors and therapists, and the motivation and unwavering support of the horses. Our riders often exceed all expectations.” Now more than 30 years old, the program began with a group of four passionate volunteers and six children. Some 200 kids are expected to participate this year, Kidd says. |


Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed with individuals with special needs in mind, according to Bob McCullough, communications director. The 25-acre theme park features a wheelchair-accessible Ferris wheel and other rides, sensory adventures, inclusive playgrounds, an accessible water park attraction and more. Gordon and Maggie Hartman founded Morgan’s Wonderland after watching their daughter, Morgan, who was born with cognitive and physical special needs, at a hotel swimming pool while on vacation in 2006. The couple vowed to create a place where those with and without disabilities could have fun together and interact. “Morgan is still the heart of the mission born all those years ago,” McCullough says. More than 2 million guests hailing from every state in the nation have visited the theme park since then. Morgan’s Wonderland
lives up to its mission of bringing people of all abilities together to promote greater understanding and acceptance. |


Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance in Decatur, Georgia, is based on the idea that the garden is a great place to outgrow limitations. Founders Rachel Cochran and Wendy Battaglia saw a need for therapeutic horticulture in their community. “We try to remove any stigma or barrier,” Cochran says. “We want to improve the quality of life and provide a sense of belonging and purpose.” The program holds a special place in Cochran’s heart, who has seen how gardening and interacting with nature has helped her own daughter, who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in an accident when she was 12. In 2019, Trellis launched Ability Garden programs and completed the design and construction of a fully wheelchair accessible garden, the Ability Garden at Callanwolde in 2021. Through the support of the Craig H. Nielsen Foundation, Trellis plans to expand their existing Ability Garden programs for individuals with spinal cord injuries. |


The newly opened Toms River Field of Dreams, located in Toms River, New Jersey, is a 3.5 acre inclusive recreational complex where everyone can play together without limitations. Christian Kane, a teacher who played an instrumental role in creating the complex, understands the importance of equitable play due to a catastrophic car accident that injured his son, Gavin. “I want to make sure we are not leaving anyone out,” Kane says. “Play is an important part of every child’s development.” No matter your interest, Field of Dreams has it covered. The complex features a baseball field, walking path, service dog area, quiet corner, bocce court, two boardwalk game wheels and a reading area. Field of Dreams also tackles another common obstacle to living an active outdoor life: accessible bathrooms. The complex features fully accessible bathrooms complete with changing stations that hold 500 pounds. “This place allows you to be the kid you want to be or used to be,” Kane says. “It is a complex for people of all ages, whether you are 83 or three years old.” |

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