Wishes and Dolphins
This summer we were given an amazing gift. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri granted my son Austin a wish.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation makes wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions. It is an amazing organization that works really hard to provide an experience of a lifetime. Different children choose different wishes. In our case, Austin could not tell us verbally what he would wish for, so we had to really think about what he likes.
Austin loves water, warmth and movement, so we decided a trip to someplace by the ocean would be fabulous for him. We had thought about a hot tub or having his room made over, but the idea of a family trip won over. This would be our first real family vacation since Austin was born. Most of our travel since then had revolved around therapy or medical care.
When our wish coordinator suggested a place called Island Dolphin Care, I was a little concerned about having another therapy place be part of our vacation, but it turned out I didn’t need to be worried. Island Dolphin Care (IDC) is located in Key Largo, Fla., and that is where Austin was given the gift of swimming with dolphins. IDC is a not-for-profit organization that provides dolphin-assisted therapy to people of varying abilities. We discovered that dolphins have an amazing ability to communicate and connect with humans, especially children and those with special needs. I totally believe they are magical beings and speak to our innermost selves. We all fell head over heels in love with the dolphins — especially my daughters Abby and Amber.
IDC does a great job of including siblings within its program. All too often, the siblings of a child with special needs get overlooked. IDC founder Deena Hoagland understands this and designed the IDC program to allow the sibs to feel like part of the experience. Both my daughters were able to have a chance to swim with Austin and the dolphins. The girls also were included in the classroom activities. It was an experience our family always will remember.
In the gift shop, a display of the book written by Hoagland, “Breaths That Count: The True Story of a Boy, a Dolphin and Their Remarkable Friendship,” caught my eye. I had to read the book. I had to learn all the details of this extraordinary family who make dreams come true through dolphin therapy. I wanted to connect with this mother, her journey and how she turned her dreams into a reality. Hoagland’s book is self-published and available on Amazon. It is truly a heart-warming story of healing and amazing love with dolphins and a family united to help their little boy.
Make-A-Wish created the vacation of a lifetime for us. It thought of everything. We were given an accessible wheelchair van to drive while in Florida, and Make-A-Wish made it possible for us to bring a nurse for Austin. Caring for him requires much time and work, and having help for part of the time enabled us to have a more relaxing experience. That extra help made a huge difference and is not something we could typically add to a vacation budget; it’s just too expensive.
The Make-A-Wish is such an amazing foundation. They really make wishes come true for children with life threatening medical conditions. It is really amazing what they do. Thank you so much, Make-A-Wish and Island Dolphin Care you gave a trip of a lifetime to a little boy who has been through so much in his life. You gave him joy and you gave him some connectedness that could only come from dolphins and the therapists at Island Dolphin Care. You made our hearts sing.
FYI, if you are looking to donate to organizations that actually help people Make-A-Wish and Island Dolphin Care are well worth your money. You can also check them out on Facebook.