Paralympic soccer club at Morgan's Wonderland opens new doors
Published: October 10, 2012
Glossy multi-hued butterflies line the path leading to the Morgan's Wonderland gymnasium that sits directly adjacent to an immaculate carousel adorned with ponies, zebras, and the occasional tiger. Inside the gym, the celebration of color continues as violet bleachers and lavender walls with light green accents reflect off a glistening hardwood court. A trio of young athletes zooms about in their pink, purple, and red power chairs using front-mounted, stark white guards to control vibrant exercise balls as Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" fittingly echoes throughout.
Six-year-old Jada Cano along with sisters Makayla and Mariah Adams, ages 6 and 5, take center court to greet Coach Charles E. Smith and power soccer practice begins. Flanked by a handful of dedicated staff and volunteers, Coach Smith kicks things off with a spirited game of red-light/green-light accentuated by beaming smiles and 360-degree spins. He follows this up with a series of passing and shooting drills where the aspiring futbolistas zip around orange cones and confidently score goals, backed by encouragement and applause from almost everyone in the gym. A friendly game of power soccer-style dodge ball follows and practice concludes with a drill in which each girl takes a crack at playing goalie.
"I feel happy," says Jada after practice, expressing the joy of being out on the court.
This is the brainchild of Gordan Hartman, a former real estate developer who opened Morgan's Wonderland in 2010, offering the region an amusement park oasis for those with disabilities. Hartman named the complex after his daughter Morgan, who lives with severe cognitive delay and served as the inspiration for the park. Today Morgan's Wonderland also serves as the host for the South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Soccer (STRAPS) program developed over the past year to fill a void for the Alamo City's athletic community. The new program is also supported by the San Antonio Scorpions and the Boeing Company.
"What happens in San Antonio is that we have programs that are too focused," explains Wendy Gumbert, the Sports Director for STRAPS. "We have a lot of adapted sports offered for the military and our wounded service members so there's a lot of opportunity for them. But then the community guy with the physical disability is left out. And then we have programs for kids but it's only for youth so the adults are left out. This program is really meant for everybody, the wounded service members, the kids, the adults, the community, everybody."
Jada goes on to explain that she's been playing soccer for "about a month," her favorite part of the game is "kicking the ball," and like most kids, she had fun watching the Olympics over the summer. Away from sports she's a first grader at Tuscany Heights Elementary, who enjoys coloring, playing with her Barbies, and going out to eat at the Olive Garden.