The entrance to Morgan's Wonderland. Photo by Scott Ball.
The entrance to Morgan's Wonderland. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Four influential leaders in the San Antonio community – two retired army generals, the chairman of the SAWS board, and a Rackspace executive – have been selected to join the board of directors for SOAR (Sports Outdoor and Recreation), the nonprofit organization that oversees Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island.

The individuals are Heriberto “Berto” Guerra Jr., CEO of Avanzar Interior Technologies and SAWS board chair; retired Maj. Gen. Josue “Joe” Robles Jr., former USAA CEO; retired Gen. James T. Hill, former Combatant Commander for the United States Southern Command; and Mark W. Roenigk, Chief Operating Officer of Rackspace.

They will join current board members Gordon and Maggie Hartman of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, Dr. Marian Sokol of the Children’s Bereavement Center, and Joe C. McKinney of Broadway Bank, in leading strategic efforts for the theme park catered to special needs children and the new addition of its ultra-accessible splash park, which is slated to open in spring 2017.

According to philanthropist Harvey Najim, chairman of the 2015 Morgan’s Wonderland Capital Campaign, since it first opened in 2010, Morgan’s Wonderland has had more than one million visitors from every state of the country and 65 different countries all over the world.

A young girl rides a ride at Morgan's Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Morgan's Wonderland.
A young girl rides a ride at Morgan’s Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland.

Gordan and Maggie Hartman’s daughter, Morgan, inspired the creation of the $34 million park through her ability to smile through physical and cognitive challenges. Morgan’s Wonderland has grown over the years to include expansions such as The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland, a unique school for for children with special needs, and other initiatives.

The new board members were hand-picked by Hartman.

“We’re truly delighted to welcome both our new board members and our returning board members,” Gordon Hartman stated in a press release. “These distinguished individuals bring tremendous experience, expertise and passion to our shared goal of helping those with physical and cognitive special needs. No doubt the board’s strategic guidance will help us attain new and higher levels of success.”

Below you can find their respective biographies, provided by Morgan’s Wonderland:

Heriberto “Berto” Guerra Jr.

Born in Roma, Texas, and raised in Corpus Christi, Guerra began his career with Southwestern Bell in 1978 and retired as vice president-legislative and constituency affairs for SBC (now AT&T). He is now the co-owner of two auto dealerships, Toyota of Boerne and Nissan of San Marcos, and he chairs the board of SAWS, the city’s water supplier. Last year, he earned Ernst & Young’s National Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2007, he was named Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State University in San Marcos, and he also completed the Executive Management Program at Penn State University.

Retired Gen. James T. Hill

An El Paso native, Gen. Hill earned his commission as an Army officer in 1968 after graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio. He advanced during his 36-year career to lead I Corps and Fort Lewis, Wash., and retired as combatant commander of the Southern Command in 2004. He founded The JT Hill Group, a consulting company, and he has shared his expertise with companies and organizations in areas such as cyber security, aerospace, and biotechnology. He sits on numerous boards including Professional Contract Services Inc., a nonprofit company specializing in providing employment opportunities to people with significant disabilities.

Retired Maj. Gen. Josue “Joe” Robles Jr.

A native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Gen. Robles joined the U.S. Army in 1966 and culminated his 28-year career as commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One). He joined USAA in 1994, serving as chief financial officer and controller until he was named president and CEO in 2007. During the next eight years leading up to his retirement, USAA grew customers by 63%, revenue by 67%, and net worth by 87%.  Gen. Robles also led USAA to national prominence for hiring veterans and military spouses.

Mark W. Roenigk

Roenigk is responsible for the computing platforms on which Rackspace delivers products, services, and support to customers in over 120 countries. He started his career as an engineer at Compaq and later held senior leadership roles at Microsoft, Intuit, Sirius XM, and eBay.  A graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in management, he has been a strong supporter of charities dedicated to enriching the lives of children with disabilities. He is a board member for Taelor’s House Foundation and supports the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association.

The New Water Park

Morgan’s Inspiration Island will be the first water park in the country that is designed for special needs individuals.

Najim has been spearheading the capital campaign for the water park and has managed to secure 65% of the campaign’s goal so far. The water park is still in its construction stage, but it will have waterfalls and water spouts and serve as a social gathering place, Najim said.

Morgan's Inspiration Island. Rendering courtesy of Morgan's Wonderland.
Morgan’s Inspiration Island. Rendering courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland.

Kids and young adults who use a wheelchair to get around will be able to transfer out into a special wheelchair provided by the park, one that is waterproof and runs on compressed air, in order for attendees to freely splash around through the different areas of park. In addition, the water will be purified and clean.

A guest at Morgan's Wonderland splashes at Water Works, the current water based exhibit at the theme park. Courtesy of Morgan's Wonderland.
A guest at Morgan’s Wonderland splashes at Water Works, the current water based exhibit at the theme park. Courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland.

“We don’t want them to go through the waterpark in their wheelchairs, those are motorized and use batteries,” Najim said. “They will be able to control the special wheelchairs. There is no other water park in the country for people who have special needs or developmental disabilities. That’s what this is about.”

Morgan’s Wonderland is located at 5223 David Edwards Dr., a half-mile west of IH 35 at the intersection of Wurzbach Pkwy and Thousand Oaks Dr.

For additional information about Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island, click here.

Top image: The entrance to Morgan’s Wonderland. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...