Chattanooga Resident Honored For Helping Children With Special Needs

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jordan Thomas of Chattanooga is one of six compassionate individuals who have distinguished themselves in helping those with special needs who will be honored at the 5th Annual “Free to Soar” Gala at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Anotonio.

The fundraiser will benefit both non-profit Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built to be enjoyed by everyone, and next-door Monarch Academy school for students with special needs.

The five honorees, Christina Barton of Seguin, Tex., Sumiko Hamilton of Houston, Tex., Beth Hewitt of Castro Valley, Calif., Joel and Carolyn Price of Austin, Tex. and Jordan Thomas of Chattanooga, will be spotlighted at the gala as well as at a luncheon earlier in the day hosted by Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in the Alamo Quarry Market.  Their names will be embedded in a translucent, “stepping-stone”-like permanent marker on the Walk of Fame that hugs the shoreline of the park’s scenic eight-acre lake.

One of the evening’s highlights will be a 21st birthday celebration for Morgan Hartman, daughter of philanthropists Gordon and Maggie Hartman and the inspiration for Morgan’s Wonderland as well as other major initiatives to benefit the special-needs community.

“Each year, we honor five incredibly wonderful individuals who have dedicated themselves to promoting inclusion,” said Gordon Hartman, CEO of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation (GHFF), “but this year, we’re saluting a husband-wife team, bringing the number of honorees to six.

“Once again, we received nominations from all over the U. S., and each one was carefully reviewed by a panel of judges from Morgan’s Wonderland and the GHFF.  It was extremely difficult to select the winners from so many heartfelt nominations, however we believe the values exhibited by the Walk of Fame honorees clearly mirror the principles on which Morgan’s Wonderland was founded.”

Jordan Thomas lost his legs in a boating accident at age 16, and while still in the hospital, he saw that many children would return home without the prosthetics they needed.  He created the Jordan Thomas Foundation to provide prostheses for children of traumatic injury.  Since that time, Mr. Thomas and a large group of volunteers have raised more than $1 million.  This enables the foundation to provide prostheses for 10 children up through age 18, a commitment that requires from $80,000 to $100,000 for each child.  A graduate of Rollins College, Thomas continues to actively preside over his foundation, stay in touch with each beneficiary and spearhead annual golf and dinner fundraisers.  

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