This is such a wonderful, heartwarming story! I bawled my eyes out when I saw the pictures and watched the video!
Cieran Kelso got to meet one of his idols – an idol you wouldn’t expect! Just a few weeks ago, Cieran sat quietly and gently stroked Winter, a dolphin, while a trainer put a prosthetic tail over the dolphin’s stump and secured it with a strap. Local tourism officials had flown Cieran and his family from England to Florida to surprise him with a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and a rare one-on-one swim with Winter, who is the star of the movie Dolphin Tale. Winter the dolphin had lost her tail to a crab trap. Similarly, Cieran is a double amputee whose own custom-made prosthetic swim flippers made headlines in the UK, where he lives with his family. Cieran was 13 months old when he contracted meningitis. He eventually recovered, however his legs had to be amputated below the knee and he lost the tips of most of his fingers. While Cieran’s disability hasn’t stopped him from joining his friends at sports like soccer and gymnastics, he has not been able to swim as well as his peers, despite a year of swimming lessons. Cieran’s father, Gary, designed prosthetic swim flippers with the help of a professional prosthetist using a pair of his own swim flippers. The flippers let Cieran whip through the water just like Winter. Cieran’s grandmother, Gemma, says:
“The amount of times we’ve watched the film is unbelievable. Cieran relates to Winter because he sees them as the same.”
Cieran’s father says:
“There are some pretty raw feelings that go into seeing Cieran swim with the dolphin. His first words when he saw the film was ‘Winter’s disabled, just like me.’ It’s just been a dolphin on a film for a long time and now it’s real. … It’s just a dream come true.”
Tourism officials in the United Kingdom forwarded a news article about Cieran’s new flippers and his dream to visit Winter to officials at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the Pinellas County tourism agency. Those officials talked to aquarium officials about bringing Cieran to Clearwater to swim with Winter. At the time, the aquarium did not allow in-tanks swims. However, Cieran’s story was so similar to Winter’s that aquarium chief executive officer David Yates couldn’t allow the opportunity to go wasted. Planning for the visit took about a year, during which Cieran’s parents kept the process a secret. They pretended it would be a business trip for Gary, a private airline security consultant-turned-photographer. It wasn’t until the family was airborne that the flight attendants announced the trip was actually a surprise visit to Winter’s home. For more than an hour, Winter and Cieran — at first alone with the trainer, then joined by his 5-year-old sister, Layla-Eve, and Winter’s “sister,” Hope — swam in the tank. Dolphin trainer Cammie Zodrow showed Cieran a few signals to make Winter do tricks. “You guys are best friends now,” she told Cieran, at which he smiled.
Cieran’s parents held back tears as he held Winter’s fin and swam beside her. Before exiting the pool, Cieran snuggled close to Winter and Hope, kissing both animals while posing for pictures. Cieran said he could have swum with Winter “for a million hours” if allowed. “It was greater than great.” Watch the video about Cieran and Winter’s adventure below! This story is so moving. I’m touched by the officials involved and their act of kindness toward Cieran and his family. I’m sure Cieran will never forget it! Source: I Acknowledge Beauty Exists