An Illinois-based organization is changing the lives of the disabled – one diver at a time. Diveheart Foundation works to help disabled people with cerebral palsy and other struggles to learn to dive and snorkel. Now, the organization is partnering with Maya Shoup, the founder and CEO of Delray Beach-based Under Blue Waters, to help the disabled in South Florida.
Juan Carlos “J.C.” Gil, for instance, has been a certified scuba diver for over seven years – despite his cerebral palsy and despite the fact that he is legally blind. As he explained, “People are always very surprised when they find out. They want to know how this guy in a wheelchair can scuba dive.”
Jim Elliott, the founder and CEO of Diveheart, explains that training someone with cerebral palsy or another disability only takes longer than training a regularly-abled person. He said, “It depends on the individual. We have two dive masters or dive buddies in the water with them, and we’ve never had a problem.”
As with any challenge a disabled person surmounts, learning to dive and snorkel gives the disabled person a sense of accomplishment. As Elliot explained, “They go away thinking if I can do this, I can do anything. And people look at them differently and treat them differently.”
At the moment, Shoup and Elliott are actually looking for people to take part in their program in South Florida. Interested parties should be in touch at: 561-715-0499 or visit http://www.underbluewaters.com or http://www.diveheart.org.