Splashes & Giggles

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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!


One Response to “Splashes & Giggles”

  1. mike page says:


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