Swimming with dolphins can be a memorable experience, but a recent episode at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida was extra heartwarming due to the special circumstances of both a boy and marine mammal.
In August, Cieran Kelso, an eight-year-old amputee from England, got to fulfill a childhood wish and swim with Winter the dolphin who has a prosthetic tail. Cieran had dreamed of the encounter, ever since he had seen Winter star in the movie A Dolphin Tale.
Tourism officials in Clearwater, Fla., teamed up with the boy’s parents and spent a year planning the surprise trip. Cieran, who lost his legs after contracting meningitis as a 13-month-old, enjoys playing sports like soccer and owns a special pair of prosthetic flippers, designed by his father Gary and a physician.
"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,' " Cieran’s father Gary told the Tampa Bay Times, who broke the story on Sunday.
The dolphin lost its tail in 2005 after getting caught in a crab trap. Marine biologists at the aquarium were able to retrofit an artificial tail out of silicone and plastic, allowing Winter to move through the water. Aquarium officials don’t normally allow visitors to swim with dolphins, but made a special exception for Cieran, given the child’s story was so similar to Winter’s.
Cieran said the experience was “greater than great” and that he could have swam with Winter “for millions of hours."