23 August 2005

US: Scuba diving opens new worlds to disabled kids

On the surface, these scuba students look the same as any divers. But they enter the water differently because all the students are disabled.

Scuba diving opens new worlds to disabled kids"I was a gymnast," said Jessica Green. "I was doing a front roll with a twist and landed on my head."

Last year, Jessica Greenfield was paralyzed from the chest down. Now she's scuba diving for the first time.

"I put weights on my hips, around my hips, the waist and my jacket," she said.

The weights give her freedom, along with the help of Diveheart Foundation, which is sending five young people to the Florida Keys for their first ocean dive.

The group's flight was delayed by Hurricane Dennis. But while they wait for the storm to clear, they trained in the pool of the Naperville Holiday Inn.

Water therapy has many benefits.

"You're moving muscles and improving circulation in areas you can't when you're in a wheelchair on land or crutches or a walker," said Jim Elliot, the foundation's founder.

Stephanie Dominici has had polio since she was 6 months old. She can't run, but she can scuba dive.

"It makes me feel on top of the world, nothing can get me down," she said.

Like the other Diveheart Foundation graduates, she will feel and see the wonders of the ocean. The experience inspires many kids to achieve much more.

"Hopefully, I'll get my own gear, go on another trip and help other disabled children," she said.

There are three or four teachers and therapists for each student, and all of them are volunteers.

The group is scheduled to fly to Florida Monday, but they have to travel through Atlanta and they are concerned about the hurricane-related weather there.

Last year, Hurricane Charley ruined the trip.

Source: cbs2chicago.com


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