Dolphin Tale's Winter Changes Lives On-Screen & Off

With Dolphin Tale 2 now playing, you may be familiar with the inspiring, true-to-life story of the Winter the Dolphin. But do you REALLY know Winter? What does she do with her time when she's not in the limelight (besides delighting aquarium visitors, snacking on fish and frolicking in the water)? Inspiring people, that's what. And changing lives.

Winter in Dolphin TaleWinter & Hope in Dolphin Tale 2

Winter's Struggle

Winter the Dolphin knows what it's like to overcome adversity, deal with hardship, struggle on a daily basis, and triumph over the greatest of odds. She's been entangled in the ropes of a crab trap, rescued from unexpected tragedy and has even faced euthanization.

With immense support and the help of the amazing team at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) and others, Winter learned to deal with the circumstances that life threw at her. She started to adjust to swimming without a tail; not an easy task for a dolphin. Ultimately, she embraced the miracle of swimming again with the use of a ground-breaking, never-before-seen prosthetic tail. It's truly a tale of triumph over adversity.

Winter's Example

Though Winter the Dolphin has inspired countless people through her films, the real story lies in her day-to-day life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the lives she touches on a daily basis. Children and adults alike connect with Winter and learn to be strong, to overcome and are inspired succeed despite limitations.

Winter the Dolphin offers an unspoken empathy, a courageous example and a rekindled hope to those who are struggling with adversity in life.

Stories of Inspiration, Change & Hope

Winter gives a peaceful, joy-filled type of hands-on therapy that benefits the lives of those around her. Whether it's a young child learning to deal with a physical or mental disability, a wounded veteran coping with the trauma of war, or a soldier's grieving family grappling with devastating loss, Winter has been there.

Just this year, 8-year-old Avery Bishop visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium after his recent release from the hospital. Having been told that Avery only had a few precious days left in his young life as he battled with terminal illness, his parents inquired about bringing him to the CMA to have him meet Winter. Once Avery saw Winter, an overwhelming change in his awareness and temperament was immediately noticed. For the next hour, his parents saw a renewal of energy and enthusiasm that had not been seen in the past two years.
Winter the Dolphin
Levi LaRochelle was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of eight. He had been receiving therapy from Dr. Nelson Mańé at the Mańé Center in Tampa, Florida for the following three years. While showing improvement under his care, Dr. Mańé contacted the CMA to inquire about including Winter into Levi's therapeutic regimen. Levi began his first series of in-the-water sessions in 2010 and the results were pleasantly surprising, even to his own mother.

Kimberly LaRochelle had been skeptical of any real impact on her son. You see, Levi was not known to appreciate anything new or different, whether good or bad. With Asperger's, eye contact, smiling and showing of emotions can be an extremely rare event.

Ms. LaRochelle recalls her son's face as it lit up upon meeting Winter. When Levi saw Winter the Dolphin for the first time, his eyes lit up. He looked straight at his mother with delight and exhibited a beaming smile. Amazed with the results, Dr. Mańé started incorporating regular visits with Winter. Levi's smiles, hugs, kisses and outward displays of emotion continue to this day.

Retired Sergeant Bill Dunham lost his leg to gunfire during the invasion of Panama, known as Operation "Just Cause". After 21 surgeries and initial attempts to save his leg, the end result was the amputation above the knee. Sgt. Dunham has gone on to achieve many things, including serving as regional Amputee Empowerment Partners (AEP) coordination at Hanger where he is employed and receiving prosthetic care. He visits and supports those facing or who have undergone an amputation.

Hanger is the company that provided Winter with her prosthetic tail, and that is how Sgt. Dunham first met her. He watched her swim and thrive with her new prosthesis. To this day, he continues to love to hear stories of how Winter the Dolphin inspires and encourages others dealing with limb loss.

There are so many more testimonials of overcoming, adaptation and hope that Winter and the Dolphin Tale movies have inspired. You can read more about them here.

Visit Winter at Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium

We hope that you'll not only watch Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, but that you'll also pay Winter a visit during your next Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Go ahead, be inspired!

Let us know if you've seen Winter the Dolphin for yourself at the CMA. We'd love to hear about your experience.

Photo Credit: Winter the Dolphin, Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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