I’m at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas this week for the annual UT LAW Estate Planning, Guardianship, & Elder Law Conference. I’ve attended this conference for many years, but learned something new today.
Did you know that Moody Gardens Galveston Island provides more than just education, recreation, & fun? It is also the site of Hope Therapy, a therapeutic recreation and vocational training program for individuals with disabilities.
With more than 2 million visitors each year, most Texans instantly recognize Moody Garden’s distinctive trio of pyramids – Aquarium, Rainforest, & Discovery, and the landmark convention center, hotel, and golf course. Most visitors don’t recognize that through Hope Therapy, Moody Gardens trains and employs individuals with disabilities to work in the green house and Rainforest Pyramid.
The Hope Therapy Program was founded after a member of the Moody family suffered a serious head injury after an accident in the early 1980’s. His family found that therapy involving animals and nature helped him to heal and recover skills and abilities impacted by the accident. The program started with rehabilitative horseback-riding, but currently focuses on Horticultural Therapy.
The program enables “individuals with disabilities to improve sensory awareness and motor abilities, regain confidence, and learn new skills to prepare for employment opportunities”. Moody Gardens often employs these individuals, in full and part-time positions throughout the Rainforest Pyramid, greenhouses, and around the park.
Moody Gardens also organizes and hosts events for children and adults with special needs. This fall, Moody Gardens will host an Adaptive Water Sports Festival, and a non-competitive creative forum called Art in the Gardens.
Educational and Employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities or special needs are becoming more available. Some colleges have begun offering supported degree paths, and employers are discovering the value of workers with different abilities.
These opportunities make it even more important to establish a Special Needs Trust and/or ABLE Account to protect income earned and assets received by someone with special needs. Even those individuals who are fully employed may receive healthcare through Medicaid, and these programs allow them to work without jeopardizing their eligibility.