Magical Moment: I Rode a Ferris Wheel with My Daughter!

I rode a Ferris wheel with my daughter!

On a clear and crisp evening on Friday night, December 17, 2021, in the light of the full moon, I rode the Whirling Wonder Ferris wheel with my daughter Chloe at the unique Morgan’s Wonderland theme park in San Antonio!

Until that night, I never imagined those words would come out of my mouth. The very idea of such a thing seemed impossible and, at best, a far-fetched dream.

So, what’s the big deal about riding a Ferris wheel? I mean, who doesn’t love a Ferris wheel? It is, after all, a common and accessible ride for just about anyone, right? Well, what about a little girl who is visually impaired, who uses a wheelchair, and who gets very stressed when introduced to an unfamiliar environment? Especially an environment that involves a setting with lots of people, loud noises, flashing lights, enclosed spaces, bulky restraints, and/or jerky movements. A typical Ferris wheel ride is NOT accessible for my Chloe. But I rode a Ferris wheel with my daughter, despite her physical and cognitive special needs.

When I started working as a staff member for Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative (with an office at Morgan’s Wonderland), I was mesmerized by this beautiful Ferris wheel, the Whirling Wonder. I was so inspired by the very idea of a ride like this that could also accommodate someone in a wheelchair. But, as I once told a fellow staff member at the park, it would take a lot to get Chloe on that ride, and even with all the best assistance, it’s likely it would be too much for her to process. This inviting ride with its calming appearance (the design, shapes, and colors are just so appealing) could prove to be a source of tremendous stress and discomfort for a medically fragile kid like Chloe.

I can’t begin to describe all the typically wonderful experiences (plays, movies, concerts, festive gatherings) we’ve attempted to share with Chloe – only to discover that it unintentionally created a great deal of stress and discomfort for her. I had high hopes that we might give the Whirling Wonder a try SOMEDAY. Still, the pragmatic side of me was somewhat resolved to the reality that it might not ever work for her, like so many other potentially wonderful experiences that remain inaccessible for her.

Well, I don’t know what it was about this magical evening when all the stars of the universe aligned for what became a perfect night for our family, but it was not just my imagination – it really happened. That night we experienced all the intentional elements of inclusion that make Morgan’s Wonderland so special. The sounds were subtle and appropriate; the lighting was soft and calming; the staff was attentive and courteous; the restrooms were accessible and accommodating; the surfaces of the entire park grounds were smooth and easy to navigate with a wheelchair; and even upon our arrival, we found ample accessible parking for our very large van and unfolding ramp.

By the way, on that special week before Christmas, we didn’t just ride the Ferris wheel. We both enjoyed the heck out of the whole experience Morgan’s Wonderland has to offer. It was one of the most precious moments I’ve ever shared with my daughter in her 13 years on this planet. It was nothing less than magical!

Back to that Ferris wheel. Chloe absolutely loved every minute of it. She seemed comfortable with the way her wheelchair fit into the space. She loved the glow of the lights and the wind in her face as we gently moved up, around, and back down in the wheel. I was hardly able to appreciate the view from the top of the wheel because my eyes were fixed on her and the smile that never left her face throughout the whole ride. If she had the ability to speak words about her experience on this ride (it seems inadequate to refer to it as just a ride), I think she might say something like this: “Where has this been all my life? I love everything about it and getting to share this with my dad was simply the best!”

It was such a gift to see Chloe feel so comfortable, carefree, and delighted, safely enjoying this Whirling Wonder of movement, lights, and fun in a way that felt like it was designed just for her. Oh, and the real bonus of this treat? Looking just a few feet away to see her mom and brother (both able-bodied with no disabilities) enjoying the same exact experience with us at the same time – priceless! It’s hard to put into words what it means for a healthy 58-year-old dad and a 13-year-old medically fragile girl (living with many severe disabilities) to share the same ride/experience. We were able to safely enjoy it together in a place where we both feel included and guests in a place that feels like it was created with both our needs in mind.

I’ll say it again…I RODE A FERRIS WHEEL WITH MY DAUGHTER! And both of us will never forget that magical moment!

Chloe’s Dad

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Adam Caskey

Adam's enthusiasm for the weather dates back to an early age, when he developed a natural curiosity for the inner workings of the atmosphere with a distinct interest in storms.

As he grew older, Adam’s interest in the weather blossomed, so he followed his passion all the way to the University of North Dakota where he learned from some of the best in the industry and earned a degree in Atmospheric Science.

From Fargo, North Dakota to the nation's capital to here in San Antonio, Adam has experienced and covered all sorts of severe weather conditions with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees below zero to scorchers well over 100 degrees.

While in Washington D.C., Adam earned the coveted "Certified Broadcast

Meteorologist” designation by the American Meteorological Association, and in 2017, The Washington Post deemed him one of the country’s coolest Meteorologists. When he’s not busy forecasting enthusiastically for KSAT-12, Adam can be found refining his hobby of making homemade thermometers from scratch. Adam takes pride in crafting and calibrating each and every accurate thermometer for his very popular “Thermometer Thursday” segment where he gives them away to loyal viewers and donates them to local charities.

A native Minnesotan who enjoys the outdoors and loves to fish, Adam now calls San Antonio home where he resides with his wife, Pam and their three kids who all love their frequent visits to Morgan’s Wonderland.

Joe Mantegna

Joe was awarded the Tony and Joseph Jefferson Award for his acclaimed performance as Richard Roma in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. Some of Joe’s film and television highlights are; House of Games, Searching for Bobby Fisher, Godfather III, his Emmy and Golden Globe nominated role of Dean Martin in The Ratpack, his Emmy nominated role of Pipi Delana in “The Last Don,” and the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons. For two seasons Joe stared with Mary Steenburgen and Amber Tamblyn in the critically acclaimed CBS drama Joan of Arcadia, winner of the 2004 People Choice Award for best new drama as well as picking up three Emmy nominations. In 2008 Joe reprised his Emmy nominated role of Lou Manahan opposite Debra Messing in USA Network series The Starter Wife. Joe has also lent his voice to the Disney/Pixar film, CARS2 and continues his 26-year run as Fat Tony on The Simpsons. In April of 2011 Joe received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Joe lends much of his free time to several philanthropic endeavors. In May of 2012 Joe was appointed the National Spokesperson for The U.S. Army Museum, to lead the fundraising campaign to build the long-planned National Museum of the United States Army. He’s also an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, a charity that focuses on the needs of our most severely wounded veterans, as well as hosting the National Memorial Day Concert since 2006. His passions also include various autism related charities as well as being a long-time supporter of the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children.

In 2014 Joe received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for his dedication to the community and craft of acting. Joe wrapped up his role as FBI Special Agent David Rossi in the fifteenth and final season of the Hit CBS Drama Criminal Minds in 2019.

Never one to slow down, Joe’s latest endeavor is an Amazon Prime Original series entitled “Forget Normal,” a touching look at the struggles of adults with autism. It was released in January of 2022 to rave reviews.

Joe resides in Los Angeles with his wife of over 40 years Arlene, and their two daughters Mia and Gia.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor is the weather chief for KENS 5 in San Antonio, Texas.

He grew up in northern New Jersey and first moved south when he was 19. For most of his life, he thought "down south" was Virginia. Then, he found out about southwest Louisiana and the Cajun life. Between crawfish boils and Mardi Gras, he squeezed in a degree in journalism from McNeese State University in Lake Charles.

Bill began his television career there, too, at NBC affiliate KPLC. Upon landing the weekend weather chair, he enrolled in the meteorology program at Mississippi State University. Then, it was on to Dixie and the state of Alabama. Following a four-year study of the skies over Montgomery, where he worked for WSFA-TV, he applied for a weekend weather position at KENS 5.

"I've been privileged to serve the viewers of South Texas since 1996. The most important thing I do is keep people ahead of severe, life-threatening weather situations. But that's only at 5400 Fredericksburg Road. THE MOST important thing I do is serve three girls as a dad," Bill says. "I enjoy EVERY SECOND I'm blessed to spend with Carissa, Kendall and Peyton. And, when we can, my beautiful wife Jamie and I really enjoy a round of golf and a good wine."

Allan Castro

Allan Castro, serves as Chief Executive Officer at The Multi-Assistance Center at Morgan’s Wonderland. Allan has been leading the planning and development of The Multi-Assistance Center at Morgan’s Wonderland since inception in 2018. Allan is a healthcare industry executive with 20 years of experience building, managing and growing health care centers, programs, products and teams that deliver results and provide value. Allan has worked at hospital systems, outpatient health centers, non-profit organizations and a national hospital association. This broad experience has allowed Allan to develop a wide-ranging health care and non-profit industry knowledge allowing him to assist healthcare and social services entities improve clinical and operational performance. Allan possess strong strategic, coalition-building, operational, analytical and interpersonal communication skills.

Gordon Hartman

Native San Antonian Gordon Hartman sold his highly successful homebuilding business in 2005 to pursue his and wife Maggie’s dream of helping children and adults with special needs. He then built Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first and only Ultra-Accessible™, fully-inclusive theme park and the home of Special Olympics Texas’ Summer Games. Gordon followed award-winning Morgan’s Wonderland with other ventures that now comprise Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative, an umbrella organization that strategically coordinates among all Morgan’s Wonderland-associated endeavors. These include Morgan’s Inspiration Island splash park, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports complex, new Morgan’s Wonderland Camp and the Multi-Assistance Center at Morgan’s Wonderland, or The MAC. Gordon’s inspiration for all that he’s accomplished is his 28-year-old daughter Morgan, who’s dealt with physical and cognitive special needs since birth. He continues to firmly believe, “Together, we ARE making a difference!”

Leslie Mouton

Leslie Mouton, a two-time Emmy-award-winning former TV news anchor and public speaker, is Director of Marketing and Social Media for 501 c(3) nonprofit Morgan's Inclusion Initiative.

A native of Lafayette, La., Mouton graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and started her journalism career in 1988 in Alexandria, La. After spending 21 years anchoring for KSAT 12, San Antonio's ABC-TV affiliate, she retired from broadcast journalism in June 2020 and joined Morgan's Inclusion Initiative in January 2021.

Mouton gained national attention after going public with her breast cancer battle in October 2000. At the age of 35, Mouton discovered a lump in her breast during a self-exam and learned it was a very aggressive form of breast cancer. She anchored a newscast without her wig to bring awareness and encourage other people battling breast cancer. At a time when cancer was still considered taboo, her actions gained the attention of ABC's "Good Morning America," "Weekend Today," and "Oprah." Newspapers worldwide and television programs "Inside Edition" and "Primetime" featured stories about her battle.

Mouton has received numerous awards, including The Congressional Action for Cancer Awareness Award and the Macy's Heart and Soul Award. She was named one of the Texas Jaycees' "Ten Most Outstanding Young Texans," and she was honored with official citations from both the City of San Antonio and Bexar County for her work in raising awareness about breast cancer.

Mouton is married to retired Air Force pilot Tony "Maddog" Mattox, and they have one daughter, Nicole Danielle Mattox.