I write a lot about business leaders and entrepreneurs, but few are as inspiring as San Antonio resident Gordon Hartman.
When he was fifteen, Hartman started his own landscaping business and saved enough money from this to begin a homebuilding business by the age of nineteen. By the time Hartman was 23, he had his own land development company.
Hartman turned this business into the largest home building and land developing enterprise in San Antonio. As a result, he has been inducted into the San Antonio Business Hall of Fame and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.
All of that makes a good business story. But what sets Hartman apart from many other successful business people is what he did next.
Building a more inclusive world
In 2005, he sold his business and, together with his wife Maggie, established the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation to "allow them to pursue their dream of helping children and adults who deal with the daily obstacles of cognitive and physical special needs."
The foundation was inspired by their daughter, Morgan, who has to cope daily with cognitive and physical challenges.
The cost of caring for a child or adult with special-needs is staggering. This segment of society is largely over-looked, marginalized and has no voice. Our mission in life is to make their world a little easier to navigate and enjoy and to be their advocate. We believe in and advocate for Ultra Accessibility – the creation of venues that are built for everyone to enjoy but with an emphasis and desire to accept and include, without barriers, those with special needs. A place that ensures 100% of the population is accepted and not just those who are fully able.
After a family vacation with a 12-year-old Morgan, the Hartmans realized they needed a fun venue to accommodate the needs of all people.
To raise money to build a theme park in San Antonio, Hartman created Soccer for a Cause. This venture led to two things- it helped establish the Scorpions of the North American Soccer League, San Antonio’s first pro soccer team, and it raised enough funds for the theme park.
“I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish, not only bringing soccer to San Antonio but also raising millions of dollars for those with special needs. We were able to bring additional awareness to what we do and for the idea of inclusion. It’s amazing what inclusiveness can do for someone’s self-esteem.”
In 2010, the Hartmans opened a nonprofit theme park in San Antonio that is fully accessible to all, including individuals with special needs. They called it Morgan’s Wonderland, after their daughter.
Since then, they have added Morgan’s Wonderland Sports – a fully-inclusive sports complex focused on fitness, competition, and fun for athletes of all abilities and Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, a 102-acre recreational oasis on the northern outskirts of San Antonio.
Gordon Hartman is passionate about philanthropy.
I have made hundreds of speeches on the importance of philanthropy that include not only the giving of money but also time for the benefit of those less fortunate. I have found that donating my business expertise to non-profit organizations allowing them to grow and thrive is gratifying.
He made another public commitment by signing the Giving Pledge. This is a public promise that he will give away most of his wealth while he is still alive.
Readers, what do you think of Hartman's commitment to charity? And what organizations in San Antonio would you like to see him contribute to?
Please leave your comments below.