ST. GEORGE (ABC4 Utah) – Children with disabilities often cannot play in a standard playground– But St. George has found a way not only to help these children enjoy the park experience but also help challenged adults.
Christened Thunder Junction, the Park is creating a model for inclusiveness.
“You take two years to design it and to plan it, and you meet with every group that represents those that might have special challenges or special needs,” said Gary Esplin, St. George City Manager.
But the City wanted the staff to be part of that inclusiveness too. The park employs people of all abilities, including special-needs.
“Work makes smile, happy,” said Monty Arko a Thunder Junction employee
“I love seeing all the little kids that are so excited for the train.,” said Madison Hornback, a Thunder Junction employee.
The park is most popular for it’s train ride, and 22-year-old Madison Hornback says she loves collecting the children’s tickets.
“It helped me be more confident in talking to people, I want to be preschool teacher,” said Madison.
After high school, when Madison couldn’t get her dream job at a daycare center, she applied for a job at Thunder Junction and got it.
“I’ve seen her struggle her whole life, and we didn’t know that she would ever be able to have a regular job without struggling, and the changes that we’ve seen in Mady are so profound,” said Jennifer Hornback, Madison’s mom.
“It helps me get more confident in job interviews,” said Madison.
A couple months ago, Madison finally landed that Day Care Center job, and her mom says it’s because of the skills she learned here.
“Now she works part time out at a daycare. So it’s her dream job,” said Jennifer.
But it turns out, she’s going to keep her job at Thunder Junction too.
“Our family, Mady’s whole extended family, everything calls it Mady’s Park, because it’s meant that much to our family.”