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Sunshine Dreamin’: Meeting Winter and Hope

The video you’ve all been waiting for! Sebastian (and the rest of us) meet Winter and Hope! (You can find us on the front page of the CMA website!) Sebastian was so excited to see the video and re-live the experience of his 7th birthday Sunshine Dream.

Sebastian enjoyed meeting Hope but when it looked like Winter wasn’t going to join us he nearly started to cry. I’d say it was as though she knew and she came over to say hello. Best day ever.

How did we get here?

I started Sebastian’s application to the Sunshine Foundation about a year ago. I had his doctor sign and complete her portion and filled out the rest, minus his actual dream. One of the criteria for the dream is that the child be able to communicate his wish. Since Sebastian communicates differently that we do, I had to present him with ideas to find his own.

We talked about the things he loves and the things he’d like do. I gave him options. He wasn’t interested in what I presented. We talked about wishes and what they meant. We watched kids on YouTube getting wished to Sesame Street. It wasn’t until we watched Dolphin Tale 2 when I saw his excitement and I asked if he’d like to meet Winter that I got the response I was looking for…YES! We had watched the original movie a few years back and he was just as enamoured so it wasn’t too surprising.

It didn’t take long once I sent his wish in and then the planning started. We organized for his 7th birthday, which was perfect. The foundation provided everything we needed for a week in Clearwater and two days at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium  (CMA) with a boat trip to learn and see dolphins in their natural habitat. Prior to leaving for our trip we received a big box in the post with everything we needed and some extra goodies and had an early birthday celebration/dream party.

The staff at CMA were amazing. We met the woman who organized our time there and she took us to meet Winter and Hope. The rest of the staff and volunteers were so friendly and helpful and everywhere we went were happy birthdays to Sebastian. They presented us with a USB full of professional photos of our dolphin experience as well as video taped everything. The man who made the video above also worked on both Dolphin Tale films and even took the original footage of Winter’s rescue.

On our way to Sebastian’s special birthday celebration we met the director of CMA as well as the man who did the effects for the Dolphin Tale films (in toronto!). The best thing happened next: they asked me if Sebastian could understand them and after I said yes they bent down to his level and addressed him entirely. It was amazing and as it should be. During his lunch/birthday party the entire office came in to help sing happy birthday. I needn’t have wondered if we would be lonely just the fam celebrating because everywhere we went at CMA people were celebrating with us.

Sebastian’s 7th birthday was a dream come true. And we will forever be grateful to the Sunshine Foundation and the staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

For those of you who don’t know Winter’s story watch Dolphin Tale (and Dolphin Tale 2 for Hope’s story). The short version is that she was rescued on a beach in Florida after her tail was caught in a fishing net. It later had to be amputated and she was outfitted with a prosthetic tail that she sometimes wears. The technology used to create her tail made advances in prosthetics for other amputees. Pretty awesome and inspiring stuff. Hope was rescued as a baby who had lost her mother and wasn’t able to be released back into the wild because she didn’t learn the skills needed to swim, breathe and hunt.