07 Jul 2017


Island Dolphin Care, located in Key Largo, Florida, provides unique, therapeutic, motivational and educational dolphin assisted therapy programs for children and adults with special needs and their families (and/or caregivers) through the use of innovative therapy techniques, which enables participants to discover and achieve desired goals, strengths and their maximum potential for individual fulfillment. Through interactive programs, education and research, children and adults alike are inspired to value and respect marine mammals and their environment.

30 Jun 2015

The Island Dolphin Care Story


By Deena Hoagland

Make Room for Joy at Island Dolphin Care

When I found myself the parent of a paralyzed and visually impaired son, I too felt paralyzed. I discovered a way to not only help my son Joe but also help other families in similar circumstances.

In 1986, my son, Joe was born with a rare, life-threatening heart condition; he suffered a massive stroke during the third of five open-heart surgeries. Our family had recently moved to Key Largo, Florida from Colorado where the high altitude was compromising Joe’s health. We left our lives and friends behind in an effort to save Joe. Starting a new life in Key Largo was lonely and overwhelming. Between doctor and therapy appointments there was little time left for family fun. Finding a place for Joe to play and just “be a kid” was difficult, especially since the stroke had robbed him of his independence and thus his favorite activity, swimming. I was desperate to find fun for Joe. One day I stumbled upon a local education and research facility where people could swim with dolphins. A special friendship was immediately formed between Joe and a wondrous dolphin named Fonzie. As a therapist I already had the educational background and experience needed. With Joe’s dolphin friend in mind, I came up with many ideas to help Joe. During his ‘traditional’ therapy appointments Joe was resistant, negative and often refused to comply with requests from therapists. Once with Fonzie, Joe’s eyes lit up and he giggled, leading me to the idea of using Fonzie (his new best friend) to encourage him to move his fragile body.

Over the course of the next year, Fonzie & Joe’s friendship grew stronger. I utilized the playful interactions between Joe and Fonzie as a motivator to strengthen Joe, both physically and emotionally. Joe wanted to spend as much time as he could with his new dolphin friend. He then began to work extra hard in his other therapies with the hope of someday swimming with Fonzie. Approximately two years after Joe’s first dolphin encounter, he independently slid into the water and swam with his dolphin friend, Fonzie. Today, Joe is an adult with few remaining signs of the stroke. I theorized that if the dolphins could motivate and encourage Joe, they might do the same for other children and families. I was determined to find out if I was right! Everyone in our family shared the dream of helping others like ourselves; and together we became the founders of Island Dolphin Care. A special place for special people!

Would you like to know the full story of my family and the beginnings of Island Dolphin Care? You will find the whole story outlined in my book on Amazon – Breaths that Count by Deena Hoagland.

About Island Dolphin Care:

Island Dolphin Care became a 501(c)3 not-for profit organization in 1997.

Through our family’s personal experiences with Joe, we understood the unique path that parents of children with special needs travel. We hoped that families arriving to IDC programs would feel accepted and understood, having found a place where everyone in the family could play and learn together!

It has been a labor of love and with the generosity of others through donations we have built what we have termed “the Joy Factory!”

The Island Dolphin Care Center is a fully accessible therapy and learning facility that includes four therapy rooms, provides informational workshops and support groups, state of the art assistive technology, interactive exhibits and aquariums, as well as a library & family resource center for parents. The 5,000 sq.ft. center of learning and fun also provides enhanced marine science education programs throughout the year.

IDC employs therapists with a background in special education, recreation therapy & social work. The skilled therapists at Island Dolphin Care use traditional therapy methods while inside the center. The motivation and excitement of being in the water with our dolphins & therapists create a learning atmosphere unlike any other! Island Dolphin Care strives to build self-esteem and confidence for all participants. The dolphins provide unconditional motivation and support to individuals with various disabilities. Visitors leave with memories that last a lifetime.

Families attend programs for one to three weeks at a time. IDC is proud of the special family experience it provides. IDC’s therapy process includes everyone!

Scholarships to attend the five-day program are available to families in financial need. Scholarships are provided based on availability of funding. Families must apply. Reservations are required for all programs. Programs are still available for 2015!

For more information see Island Dolphin Care’s website at www.islanddolphincare.org or call 305-451-5884.

Deena Hoagland

“Every child deserves the opportunity to participate in activities that will enhance their emotional and physical well-being through joyful experiences….Without judgment, without fear, they (dolphins) interact and accept you as something wonderful”

– Deena Hoagland

What do families say about IDC?

A quote from a father of a participant:

“Upon arriving on Monday morning until our departure your staff could not do enough for us. They gave not only their time and expertise but their love and caring, Randy was comfortable from the first hello and I was able to relax and not worry whether he was in good hands and were all his needs being met. I didn’t realize how much I needed that.”

“The bottom line for my family is that you were able to get Randy to not only talk in complete sentences but give him an experience he will fondly remember for many years come.”

Other Participant Photos:


Logan with therapist, 2015


Michelle with therapist, 2015

Jack with Therapist, 2015

Jack with Therapist, 2015

21 Oct 2014

A Very Special Letter Written to IDC


For our blog post this week, I wanted to share with you a very special letter we recently received here at Island Dolphin Care.  This letter was written by one of the children in a family that recently attended our one week program.  Our hearts are full reflecting on the joy that Island Dolphin Care has given this family and so many others.  Please don’t hesitate to share your own thoughts and IDC experiences in the comments below.  We love hearing from our families and feel grateful and blessed to have you in our lives!

Love, Deena

–      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –      –     –     –

April 15th till May 7th

First I will tell you what dolphin therapy actually is, because it’s very unknown.

Dolphin therapy is for children, but also for adults, with Down syndrome, autism, or another mental disorder. It’s also for children with developmental delays. There are several goals that people can achieve with dolphin therapy. The most important goal is the positive experience and the fun that the children have when they are playing with the dolphins. For other goals, they look at the development and capabilities of the child. It’s often the intention that children learn how to communicate and look people in the eye. Some other goals are social skills, self-confidence, independence, emotional stability and extend of the concentration.

Friends of us, have a foundation: “Stichting Twarne.”  They will help families with children with special needs to go to Island Dolphin Care in Florida to have dolphin therapy. They asked my parents if it was something for us. They were doubting, because we’ve never travelled that far, and they were not really sure if it was something for them. But when I heard, that we had a chance to do this, I kept saying that we had to do this! Of course, it was new, and exciting, but if you never try, you’ll never know! Eventually they thought I was right. We planned the trip, for three weeks to Florida and then we had two weeks dolphin therapy. I was very curious, how it would be, to be in America, to swim with dolphins, and would it work, the therapy? It were all questions and we had to find the answers by ourselves.

When we arrived in Florida, we were very tired because of the jetlag. But the first day, we wanted to visit Island Dolphin Care, because for my brother it’s important to know how things would work the next week. IDC was just a five minute walk from our cottage there. When we were at IDC, the feeling we had, was so special, like we came home or something, the people were so lovely, they showed us everything, and we could watch a therapy session. I’d never seen a dolphin this close, and they were so huge, and so beautiful, it was magical to be there, to see the children having fun with their therapist en the dolphin!

I saw a dolphin with a pink belly, her name was Bella they said, she is the dolphin who gives 110%. She likes to jump the highest, swim the fastest en talk the loudest. Her unique pink coloration makes her stand out from the crowd! I didn’t know why, but I really want that she became our dolphin for the two weeks.


We met Pete and Deena Hoagland, they were the founders of IDC. They are the most wonderful people I’ve ever met! They told me their story. They have a son, named Joe Hoagland. He got off to a rough start in life, he was born with a heart defect that required numerous surgeries, Joe suffered a massive stroke during one of those surgeries. It partially paralyzed his left side, leaving him unable to stand, sit or lie down without help, he was only three years old. Because Joe had not responded well to traditional therapy, his mother Deena, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and teacher, thought water activities might give Joe more physical freedom. So Deena took Joe to Dolphins Plus, a Key Largo facility that offered public swims with dolphins. That’s the place were Joe met Fonzie, a Atlantic bottle nose dolphin, and there their remarkable journey began. Joe recovered form the paralysis trough hard work and the inspiration he got from is relationship with Fonzie. Deena believed that if dolphins could help Joe feel better about himself, and motivate him to try new tasks, then the dolphins might also help others, and so IDC was born.


Deena Hoagland wrote a book about their story, it was so beautiful to read. I’ve learned a lot from her. Here is a quote from her book:

We are always one breath away. From one breath to the next, one moment to the next, life can change. Why do we not know how important each moment is? We never know until we have to know. Then, whenever something huge happens in our lives – the important moments – we remember them as if in slow motion; aware of the smells, the sounds, that moment itself when life stopped, when life changed.

So many moment in life are taken for granted. The next breath we take can bring love, disaster or something beautiful. If only I knew to celebrate each breath as if it were the first, or possibly the last, how much greater life would be! How many breaths have I wasted wanting something I did not have, dreaming of what-if, or living in fear. If only I could celebrate this breah, I would realize – have realized –  so much sooner that this breath is the only one that counts right now; the only one I have right now. How much easier and more meaningful would this life have become? We are all just one breath away from something meaningful, something big, all of the time..

 I think this is beautiful, this is how life should be lived!

The weekend before the therapy started I was very nervous, but then it was Monday! We heard who our therapist would be, and which dolphin would assisted us during the sessions. And I still don’t know why, but I was right! Bella was our dolphin, the pink princess dolphin! She was so beautiful. Our therapist was Kim, she is a wonderful person. Normally siblings may not go in to the water, she told me, but I had to translate for my brother, so I was very lucky! Then we went to the dock, I thought that we would just meet the dolphin, so Bella knew who we were. But no, my brother Sem and I had to go in the water, and we could touch the dolphin, and swim with her. When I’m writing this it’s still a magical feeling, to swim with a dolphin. I really can’t describe the feeling I had, it was like Bella and I were the only one in the world at that moment, I didn’t think about anything else. And then, when I saw my brother swimming with Bella, I think I was the happiest person in the whole world, to see him laughing and having fun, he was so relaxed, I’d never seen him like that, it was amazing. And then I looked at my parents, sitting on the dock, they could also touch the dolphin, and they could give her a kiss. It was amazing to see, how much fun we had, how wonderful it all was.

PlayingwDolphin1   PlayingwDolphin2
After the swim, we went inside, where we had a session in the class room. My brother was making a book, he had to choose a picture of the therapy sessions in the water, then he had to describe what he was doing there, and how that made him feel. Because he finds it difficult to describe his feelings, but after a few days, he became better in it. We could also play games, like “guess who?!”. That was our favourite game, we had so much fun playing it!


We also had to paint, you could make a T-shirt or a pillowcase, or a bag. It was so much fun to be creative with the whole family, it was an amazing experience.


During this vacation, we learned so much. Sem and I have a much stronger bond, and it was always strong, but we did this together, we swam with a dolphin! We did that, I can’t describe how it feels. It was just magical I think.

Saying goodbye to Island Dolphin Care was the hardest thing, there were a lot of tears, not only from us, but also from our therapist Kim, from Pete, Deena and Joe Hoagland. It felt like saying goodbye to our family.

My father said: “The question is not if we come back, the question is when!” So who knows, maybe this year, or next year, we will be back at the most wonderful place in the world.

I wrote a poem for Pete and Deena, and with that poem I will end this text about Island Dolphin Care, I tried to describe my feelings about what happened in that two weeks.


Island Dolphin Care, the place where wishes come true.
The place who is welcome to everybody who is new.
It’s a place where dolphins and humans live side by side,
You can see everybody going in to the water smiling bright.
This is the place where magic happens, it’s just beautiful to see.
A place that is very special for every child with special needs.
Island Dolphin Care, it’s feeling like a home,
Nobody here has to feel alone.
The dolphins will comfort you when you’re feeling sad,
They will stand by you trough the good and the bad.

Island Dolphin Care, you are a huge success! Because this is the place where magic is happening to us!

08 Oct 2014

Baby Dalai is Growing Up So Fast!


dalaiHave you ever wondered how a baby dolphin spends its day?

I’ve been outside watching our new baby, Dalai, as much as I can! What a wondrous gift to have this experience.

Tucked under her mother, Squirt, our little Dalai explores every inch of the lagoon. It appears that Squirt is teaching her all that she needs to know.

The other evening when I was leaving the facility, I noticed that Dalai and Squirt were facing the coral rock wall rostrums side by side. I was sure that Squirt was teaching her how to fish on her own already!

Squirt is a calm and confident mom. She has allowed Dalai to begin to explore some things on her own. Dalai ventures off for a moment while Squirt multitasks, but Squirt always has her eyes on where her baby is. Dalai has begun to seem interested in the other dolphins in the lagoon as well. She has swam off with her daddy, Bob, and has been seen with Sarah and Bella too.

I wondered if Squirt was taking break when I saw Dalai swimming with her dad, Bella and Sarah.

Mom dolphins have a big job taking care of their babies – just like humans do. Just like human babies develop skills to pick up their head, roll over, sit up, etc., dolphins have a natural course of development, too.

Yesterday, Dalai barrel rolled in front of where I was standing! Baby dolphins grow so fast.
It is curious, adorable and fascinating to watch our dolphin family grow… and it is an honor to be one of their humans.

I hope you can come visit Island Dolphin Care soon and meet Dalai while she is still so small. If you can’t come by, take a look at the Island Dolphin Care webcam – maybe you will catch sight of her swimming swiftly in front of the camera as she is always on the run and up to something very fun!
Want to know more about how Island Dolphin Care was founded? Order a copy of Breaths That Count by Deena Hoagland (available on amazon).

Want to know how you can help us continue our great work? Perhaps you will consider making a donation whether it is small or large every bit helps to help us make a difference!

Our annual auction fundraiser is November 15th at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill. Tickets are on sale now. If you are interested in helping, donating or attending, call Kathy at (305) 451-5884.

11 Sep 2014

The True Meaning of Love: A Part of My Heart


Life is hard.Deena and Pete

I was not prepared for a “hard life” when I was a child.  Difficulties were hidden, whispered about and kept secret. I was daddy’s little girl, funny, carefree and invincible!

Then I suddenly and shockingly learned how raw life could be having a critically ill child.  Navigating the unknown highways of illness while keeping our family alive and loving without getting lost seemed impossible.

Its natural to want to hide pain, run from it, and keep it behind closed doors. So when it came to us, when life threw that curve ball – we were shocked, angry, and wanted to run– instead of saying to ourselves and to each other – “life happens and so do curve balls; we will get through this.”  It took us time to be able to say and understand that.

Pete and I were brought up in a “disposable society.”  I did not realize that until we had real problems, and I was forced to think about it… that we were living with an insidious and subliminal message that anything can be replaced if its broken (even people).

Pete and I, as so many other families with a sick or disabled child or family member, had to fight through our journey our own way in order to find the answers. We were lucky that we were able to look into each others eyes, cry together, and hold each others’ hands.  And when we couldn’t, we were most lucky that we were able to find courage and forgiveness…

We stayed strong for each other when the other was weak.  We cried, too.  We felt alone.  It was not easy.  It was never easy.  It is still not always easy.  We fought for our love, our relationship, and our life.  Staying together and loving despite the unknown highways of having a sick child feels triumphant.

Life is hard; it is imperfect; it is challenging.  When you say,”I love you,” today, will you mean, “I accept this challenge? I agree to stand by you during the most difficult and trying times?”  It’s easy to love when you are having fun… but if you are able to love when tested in every cell of your body – that is LOVE.

Maya Angelou Hope Quote | Island Dolphin CareLove, true love, is respect, caring, holding the hand of someone you love, not just when you are happy (that is the easy part)… but true love is grasping hands, never letting go, holding hands close to your heart when you are mad, when things are the toughest, when you don’t understand the other person’s reaction or grief, when you need so desperately the acknowledgment of something that the other person is not getting or giving.  True love, as said so wisely by Maya Angelou: “….recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it’s destination full of hope.”

I feel blessed that when I look into the eyes of those that I love.  And I am blessed to know that when I say “I love you,” my “loves” understand and know what that truly means…

True love is down right hard, nitty gritty, and really bad sometimes.  True love is labor, giving birth, hearing that first cry – joyous.

There is nothing else like it.

When you say, “I love you” today, what will you mean?

I am not embarrassed to say out loud or to you, “Thank you, Peter Hoagland.  You are the love of my life.  Thank you for loving me and allowing me to love you. It is our 38th wedding anniversary!  You are the breath of my soul…. Triumphant!”

True love has no boundaries.


Want to read more? Breaths that Count by Deena Hoagland available on Amazon.com: Breaths That Count

28 Aug 2014

Small, Medium and Large …


Some of you may already know that Island Dolphin Care depends on donations in order to provide the best care for our dolphins, & to provide scholarships to children with disabilities, veterans wounded in combat and their families.

The Miami Dolphins have been a partner of ours for many years. This year their donation of $10,000 will bring many Children with cancer for one day camps! We are so grateful and appreciative to them for their continued support to our programs and dolphins!dolphins-2013-logo

When the Dolphins brought their donation, a few players also came to swim with the children.

While in the water, we decided to hold a large check above our heads and take a photo with the children, our dolphins and Miami Dolphins Players. Everyone was excited with this idea. The Players were wearing Island Dolphin Care rash guards for the photo op. I was next to them in the water looked over to my side and found myself gazing at the distorted Island Dolphin Care logo!!

“WOW” I said out loud, “I’ve never seen anything like this before…You are so BIG …I mean really BiG that the Logo on the rash guard is totally distorted!! “ (Everyone was laughing).

Have you ever stood next to a Miami Dolphin?! Let me tell you that they are BIG people! Just take a look at the photo below, you will understand why I call this a lesson in SMALL MEDIUM & LARGE!


While in the lobby just before departure we were all thanking the players and saying goodbye.

An adorable family walked in with a baby in their arms. The mother immediately recognized the players and asked if she could take a photo and have one of us hold the baby. Of course we did. Then I said “This is a terrific lesson for the children in the program. Can we use this photo to teach the difference between small, medium, and large?!”


14 Aug 2014

A Child Finds her Voice… What if You Could Help?


She was eight years old. She sat in her wheelchair unable to move any part of her body on her own. Her dark eyes seemed deep in thought, knowing.

Her parents said she was not able to speak. Doctors had told them she was too disabled to understand the world around her. They adored her, cooed, smiled, sang and spoke to her with loving, kind voices. I watched as her eyes looked to them and shined for them, and thought to myself, “If only eyes could speak, she would have so much to say.”

Her parents wanted her to experience swimming with a dolphin.

Girl w DolphinI watched as they stretched her body & found ways for her to be comfortable. As they held her in the water to feel free, I watched her eyes and thought, “If eyes could smile, she would be beaming back to her parents.” It was only her eyes that could move. I imagined what she saw; imagined what her eyes might be saying. Her parents insisted that she had no ability to comprehend and, even if she did, no way to tell them.

I watched how her eyes followed them as they moved around the room.

“What if she could speak with her eyes?” I exclaimed. “Lets try something…”

We brought in a speech-activated computer that uses eye gaze to activate speech and set it in front of her. She was told to look at it and when she looked at the picture, the computer would speak for her. We showed her over and over again how it worked. We put a photo of her mother on the screen. When told to look at the photo, she did! The computers voice spoke, “Mama.”

I looked up. We were all crying. Between tears, her mother said in disbelief, “She said ‘Mama!!’”

“Yes, she said mama!” That happened at Island Dolphin Care.

What if you could help a child find her voice? You can. Make a donation to Island Dolphin Care online at www.islanddolphincare.org.

Click on the donate button. Please.

We appreciate your support, which helps us continue to bring joy to the many families who visit us at Island Dolphin Care. Thank you.

30 Jul 2014

The Choice to Try


GretchenAs I turned the page, my eye caught the picture of a tea bag. I read, “you are as strong as a tea bag in hot water.”

“Yes,” I thought out loud in my mind, “you don’t know how strong you can be until you find yourself in hot water.”

If anyone had looked into my future years ago and told me the things I have done and the things I am doing, I surely would have said, “You’ve got the wrong girl! No thanks, not me! I could NEVER do that!”

Yet I found myself not just standing in hot water but steeping in the largest cup of tea you could imagine up to my knees.

Maybe it’s something like this…

When you find yourself at the deepest depths of your soul and you think you have no choice, ask yourself again, ”Is there anything I can do?”

When I asked myself that question, the answer I got was, “All you can do is try. Try anything!” I had a choice to make. Doing nothing would bring nothing. There was nothing more to lose. When faced with the hardships of life, we all have a choice.

Have you ever found yourself staring into your own face and wondering, “Do I have a choice?”

I was there when the doctors told me all of the things Joe would NEVER be able to do. My choice was to try something, anything, each day – OR – not, to do nothing.

So I tried. Each day I woke up, I did the things I absolutely had to get done. Then, I said, “Okay, now its time to try SOMETHING. ANYTHING. But TRY YOU MUST.”

I think it was as hard for me as it was for Joe. Some people told me that I needed to accept what the doctors said. I needed to stop and realize that there were things in life I could not change! Accept it, they said.

But I could not. And would not. And as hard as it was to try, it was harder not trying. “At least,” I thought, “at the end of the day, I can say I tried something.”

I did not give up. Some days were excruciating. But even the littlest change or the smallest gain was huge to me, and it was those tiny gains that kept me going.

Yes, I believe there are things in life we can’t change, things out of our control. But I believe that if I had given in and given up, I would not be standing on dry ground today, and I would never have had any sense of peace.

When I had the idea for Island Dolphin Care, I thought to myself, “Here is another choice. You can try. Maybe fail. But if you don’t try, you will never be at peace wondering ‘what if’…”

People said it was “impossible” to do. They suggested I should get a “real” job!

I had learned by then that I am persistent and that I had to try.

So I tried. I began with a $500 donation. Then I took a loan for $5,000 using my truck with 200,000 miles on it as collateral. Then things took off from there.

Look where IDC is today! A JOY factory! Bringing splashes and giggles to anyone that walks through the door!

What an incredible journey this has been. Thinking back to the beginning. It all began by feeling like my world was collapsing, when life was so hard.

Hmmm. Making the Choice. A CHOICE.

Do you dream about doing something? And do you ever feel like you can’t – that you don’t have a choice? Ask yourself, “What if I…” then try!

It can never happen unless you TRY.

I’m still dreaming of the day when Island Dolphin Care will have the endowment funds to provide programs, scholarships and the funds necessary to care for our dolphins’ needs in perpetuity.

I’m trying every day.

I choose possibility. What will you choose? What will you try?

23 Jul 2014

“I DO CARE” is Happening on November 15th! SAVE THE DATE!!


Our annual “I DO CARE” fundraiser, dinner & auction will be held at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill Restaurant in Key Largo this year on Saturday, November 15th.

 November 15th is also Joe’s 28th birthday! For the past five years, we have celebrated Joe’s birthday with our Island Dolphin Care community, at a party generously giving to the scholarship & care of our dolphin funds. I can’t think of a better way to honor Joe, the Chief Officer of Inspiration at Island Dolphin Care, than by celebrating him & what he cherishes.

For those of you who do not know his story (the story of Island Dolphin Care), you can read about it in my book, Breaths that Count. You can pickup a copy in our gift shop or online at Amazon.com.

It is the story of how Joe’s friendship with a special dolphin named Fonzie helped him recover from a stroke. His journey with Fonzie brought our family together to create Island Dolphin Care programs for thousands of others on journeys similar to our own.

The fundraiser will help provide necessary funding to bring children, veterans, and families with disabilities and illness to our programs, which give joy, respite, and tools that assist them in becoming the best that they can be!

save the date 2014Funding raised also supports care for our dolphins.

 How can you help?

  • Become a sponsor to our event!
  • Donate an item for our silent or live auction.
  • Attend with your friends!
  • Give Generously!
  • Help us secure corporate sponsors or silent auction donations

Tickets will be on sale soon. Only 200 tickets to this event are sold, making this an intimate and fun event with music, cocktails, and a lovely poolside seated dinner. Get involved – it’s your donations that make what we do possible each day!

To become a sponsor, buy tickets, donate an item or volunteer:

Call us at 305-451-5884, or email me at: fonzie@islanddolphincare.org.

Together, we can make a difference.band

08 Jul 2014

Splashes & Giggles


S5By Deena Hoagland

I just stepped outside to watch a special swim with a very special young man that came to Island Dolphin Care for the first time one year ago.  He was referred to our program from his rehab therapist.  Here is what happened.

On a beautiful Florida day, two years ago, he and his best buddy went spearfishing.  They had been spearfishing many times together.  Except this day, they had a very big problem.  While loading the spear gun, it accidentally released!  Our friend’s head happened to be in the way.  The spear went into his brain and out the other side.  Luckily, his friend was a quick thinker, got him to the surface, and immediately called for help.

The traumatic injury caused significant brain damage.  Doctors and nurses were initially unsure of his prognosis.  One thing everyone understood for sure was that a lot of therapy was needed.

When the hospital brought several of their patients on a field trip to Island Dolphin Care, our friend heard Joe Hoagland tell his story – how he was left-side-challenged and had visual impairments as a result of having a massive stroke.

He was immediately inspired by Joe’s story and even more determined than ever to get better.

Knowing that the family was facing insurmountable medical bills, Island Dolphin Care offered them a scholarship to the five day program!

One year ago, he struggled to lift his arm, open his hand to hold a dorsal fin, and walked with a limp.  Our trained therapists assisted him to be as independent as possible.  He was so motivated by Joe’s story, the gift he was given to be with the dolphins, and the IDC program, that each day he worked harder and harder.

Everyone cheered for him as he attempted tasks with his disabled arm and hand. In one week, he had made a lot of progress.  On the Friday that the program was over, there were tears of gratitude.

I tell people that hearing the giggles and laughter allows participants and their family members the opportunity to join the world again.  When they see life is not over and can experience joy, they become motivated to work harder than ever before!

Knowing that the IDC therapy program was so motivating for him & meant so much to him and his family, we offered to have them come back this season.

I could not wait to see the family and see how far they have come.

I was so proud watching his swim today!  WOW!  There is still more work and therapy that is needed.  But seeing him hold a dorsal fin and participate in activities he once needed help for brought joy and satisfaction to our hearts.

Just imagine how he and his family feel to see the progress they have all made together!

We are so fortunate to have generous people who donate to help families attend our programs.

Our generous donors make it all possible so our therapists and dolphins can do what they do best — creating motivation, joy splashes and giggles!


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