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WINTER'S FRIENDS

Winter has inspired millions of people of all ages across the world.

The amazing story of Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail, has touched and inspired millions around the world to visit, write, and email Clearwater Marine Aquarium to tell us their story. Here are just some of those stories we'd like to share. Take a moment to read, be inspired, and then share your story with us to inspire millions more.

Seventeen-year-old Josh was Granted a wish by Make A Wish Foundation because he has Batten Disease with cerebral degeneration. When asked about his one true wish, Josh truly lit up and started to talk about Winter. Dolphin Tale is one of his favorite movies, mainly because he can empathize with "losing" an ability. He feels that Winter is very similar to him, because she lost her tail fin and he lost his eyesight. He loves the story of how she has overcome her disability, because this is something he is working towards every day.

Five-year-old Linnea Kanyok, from Wilmington, North Carolina, learned about Winter in school and begged her parents to drive her to CMA to see her during Spring Break. So Linnea's parents and her brother and sister got in the car and drove to Clearwater. She loved getting the opportunity to hold one of Winter's prosthetics tails and watching her swim in her new pool. She shared, "Winter is very special to me and my class. We talk about her and what an amazing dolphin she is. I love her plastic tail."

Seven-year-old Andrea Oughton, from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was thrilled to get to see Winter in her new home. During Spring Break, she and her family traveled all the way from Wisconsin to meet Winter. Andrea says, "Winter gives me support in my life and she makes me happy." Andrea was adopted…just like Winter! Mom, Sara, shared, "This has been a dream come true experience for Andrea. Winter and CMA are a great support to us!."

Nine-year-old Grace Cooke, from Trinity, Florida, raised $75.87 for Winter's new home. After coming to CMA and learning more about her story of survival, she decided to go door to door in her neighborhood asking people to help her raise money for Winter. She also asked friends and family to help her. "I am very inspired by Winter and I want others to be too," said Grace. "I love Winter and I wanted to do something nice for her."

Eighteen-year-old Christopher Briner, who lives in Shelby, Ohio, smiled from ear to ear when he met Winter. He loved meeting Winter, her trainers and CMA staff. Mom, Jennifer shares, "Winter and Chris have a lot in common. After a traumatic accident that left Chris with a brain injury and facial trauma, he had to re-learn many things (like walking, talking, eating and more) just like Winter! The two of them have overcome the impossible."

Four-year-old Logan Wilson, who lives in Nashville, Arizona, really loved feeding Winter her fish. Logan has a prosthetic leg, just like Winter has an artificial tail. Mom Brandy says, "Logan really likes dolphins and really enjoyed the opportunity to meet Winter." Laughter erupted when Winter's trainer asked Logan if he wanted to play peek-a-boo, he responded, "Not right now, silly!" He wanted to feed Winter more fish!

Thirty-one-year-old Maja Kazazic, who lives in Palm Harbor, Florida, has a very special bond with Winter. When Maja was 16-years-old and living in Bosnia during the war, she was severely injured from a motor shell rocket grenade. As a result, she lost her leg and barely survived. Now, 15 years later, Maja is a volunteer at CMA and actually works with Winter the dolphin. Maja is shown in this picture with her parents.

Six-year-old Luke Conrad, who lives in Troy, Ohio, couldn't believe the inside of Winter's prosthetic tail looks similar to the braces he uses on his feet. And ironically, both Winter and Luke use Hanger Prosthetics and Orthopedics to help them. Luke was born with spina bifida and doctors told his parents he would never walk. Like Winter, Luke beat the odds and walks. "For Luke to see an animal with a brace, it has made him realize it is okay to be different. Luke loves animals and had the biggest smile on his face when he saw Winter and her special brace."

Seven-year-old Lydia Olmsted, who lives in Columbia, Missouri, smiled when she got a round of applause from the audience after getting to kiss Winter. Winter is the first dolphin she has ever met. Lydia described the dolphin as "soft in some places, hard in some places and wet." Lydia relies a lot on how things feel when she touches them because she is visually impaired. She says, "Winter has had to have treatments for her impairments and so have I. I have had some treatments for not being able to see. We have both needed help." Lydia enjoys learning about the ocean and the creatures that live in it in school and that's why her family chose to take their summer vacation in Clearwater. "This was a really neat thing and one that I will never forget," Lydia said.

Fourteen-year-old Jordan Tyrrell, who lives in Middletown, New York, was all smiles from start to finish when he got to meet Winter the dolphin. While spending his summer vacation in Florida visiting his grandparents, he and his mom made a special visit to CMA to meet Winter. Jordan has Cerebral Palsy and enjoyed learning more about the special dolphin who is also happy, despite her hardships. Mom Melody said, "Jordan has arm braces to help him and Winter has a prosthetic tail to help her. Winter is a fighter just like Jordan." Jordan has always loved all animals…and Winter the dolphin is at the top of that list!

Friends nine-year-old Jessie Hayes (from Clearwater) and ten-year-old Izzy Hynan (from Flint, Michigan) recently decided to bake cookies and host a lemonade stand to raise money for Winter the dolphin. They collected a total of $33.73. The duo shared, "We love animals. Winter doesn't have a tail and we know it costs a lot of money to take care of her, so we wanted to do something to help with that."

Nine-year-old Sierra Nicole Vince, who lives in Largo, Florida, celebrated her birthday by meeting Winter at CMA. She first learned of Winter as a Shriners patient. Sierra has two prosthetic legs and says Winter has been an encouragement to help her overcome tough things in life. She also shares, "I love animals. And my dad goes to Hanger for his special legs and I know Hanger makes Winter's tail and I think that is really cool!"

Four-year-old Abby Gervais, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, got a very special birthday present this year when she got to meet Winter the dolphin and give her a very special kiss! Abby says, "Winter is so special. She got tangled in a net and wiggled so much her tail fell off. I just love her.

Siblings Chris, Rebecka and Emilio Rincon, who live in Atlanta, Georgia, were thrilled to meet a dolphin for the very first time. The trio (and mom Deborah) got to spend some special time feeding and doing behaviors with Winter. Since all of the kids love dolphins, it was the perfect outing during their summer vacation!

Eleven-year-old Quinton Forney, who lives in Irwin, Pennsylvania, was thrilled that the first dolphin he ever met was Winter. Quinton and his family visited CMA through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Quinton has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle condition. His love of science, marine life and the beach brought him to Clearwater and St. Petersburg for a special family vacation. Quinton's favorite moment while meeting her was getting splashed as she swam backward. He says the best part of his marine-themed day was most definitely meeting Winter, a dolphin who is special just like him.

7-year-old Olivia McKenna, who lives in Orlando, Florida, was all smiles when she and her family met Winter. She is a first grader at Waterbridge Elementary schOlivia McKennaool in Orlando, where Winter the dolphin is the school mascot this year. After learning of Winter's story, Olivia was thrilled to come and meet her in person. Mom Margarita shared, "Winter has gone through a lot, just like Olivia has." Olivia said, "I feel Winter and I are very special because she lost a tail and I have a lot of trouble seeing because I have aniridia. Winter is my favorite friend and I think she is wonderful!" Olivia's mom is a third grade teacher at Waterbridge and believes Winter encourages kids to feel compassion for others and to reach out to do something special. Students at Waterbridge take turns taking Winter stuffed animals home for "Weekends with Winter." Students have the opportunity to write about all the places the Winter dolls visit. Winter dolls have been to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Washington DC, Wisconsin and even the Daytona 500!

11-year-old Brenna Milligan, from Ontario, Canada, is collecting money for Winter. During a recent trip to Florida, her parents surprised her by bring her to CMA to meet the dolphin she has been reading about for two years. Winter was such an inspiration to Brenna that she started "Dimes for Dolphins" to raise money for Winter. She has put collection jars at local businesses, is holding bake sales, freezie sales, garage sales and selling used books toward her cause. Her classmates are also helping her collect money. So far, she has collected $250 so far. Way to go Brenna!

15-year-old James Bogar Jr., who lives in Lockport, New York, was thrilled to meet Nicholas the dolphin. Back home, his class adopted this special dolphin and during a recent trip, James got a chance to meet him up close and even feed him a couple of fish! James is autistic and appreciates dolphins because they are special like him.

12-year-old Hannah Jenkins, who lives in Libertyville, Illinois, got to meet Winter while visiting Florida over Spring Break. Hannah and Winter both have disabilities. Hannah was born without a hand or forearm on her left side. Like Winter, Hannah has learned how to manage without it. After meeting the young dolphin, Hannah shared, "Winter survived without a tail and is learning how to swim like other dolphins. I can relate to her because of my disability. Winter helps other people know they can also survive. She is an inspiration to me." Hannah loves horseback riding.

Fifty five-year-old David Bedworth, who lives in Tampa, Florida, was very emotional when he got to spend some time with Winter. The young dolphin has helped David through some very tough times. Following surgery to remove a brain tumor, he is now undergoing a year's worth of radiation treatments. David shares, "I held on to Winter's story through a very rough two years. Like her, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but do not yet know if my journey is truly over. Winter has inspired me through the most trying times. I am determined to be like her."

Three-year-old Jenni Brown, who lives in Hazlehurst, Georgia, saw stories about Winter on television and wanted to come meet her. Jenni has cerebral palsy and is a Shriners patient in Tampa. Mom Krista said, "Seeing Winter was an amazing experience. Jenni loves animals and the water. We had an amazing time meting Winter."

Four-year-old Kylie Smith, who lives in Largo, Florida, couldn't wait to meet Winter. She is a Shriners patient in Tampa and has a prosthetic leg. She shared, "I saw that Winter's tail is just like my leg. I had lots of fun feeding fish to Winter and want to spend more time with her." Kylie added that Winter makes her feel very special.

Canada Girl Donates $200 to Winter – In lieu of birthday presents, six-year-old Ontario, Canada resident Katie Carruthers asked her friends to donate money for Winter this year. As a result, she and her friends collected $200 for Winter. Two years ago, Katie and her family met Winter during a vacation to Florida. "She was more excited about who she was going to help for her birthday than she was about Christmas," said mom Gail. "It's really great to encourage kids to give back to the world at a young age. She was really excited about this."

Stacy McGough's 4th grade math class in Dallas, Texas loves to learn about Winter. With Web stories and our Web camera, they stay updated on her progress. Students in the class collected $43.32 for Winter's new home. "When I first heard of Winter, I got inspired," shared class member Norman Trigo. "She is an inspiration to my mom, brother, teacher, friends and me. That is why I collected my money from my bank account for her new home." Brother Joe Trigo said, "I am trying to help Winter because she is tougher than any dolphin I know." Thank you for your generosity!

Twelve-year-old Lauren Bertram, who lives in England, was so happy to meet Winter and hold her prosthetic tail. She said, "Winter has put a smile on my face forever. She is a survivor." Lauren's mom has Meniere's Disease and was also inspired by the young dolphin. "She has made my mom feel better today. I think Winter is a healer for other people."

Four-year old Bailee, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, got a special birthday surprise when she came to CMA and got to meet and feed Winter the dolphin. Bailee saw Winter's story on the news and wanted to meet her after she discovered Winter is special like her. Bailee said, "It's great that she has a fake leg like me! I love her and I'm so glad that we are both special together." During her visit, Bailee was interviewed by all five of the local television stations. She was not camera shy at all and loved sharing her story of meeting Winter. She described the entire experience in one word, "Great!"

Eleven-year-old Brandon who lives in Hudson, Florida, enjoys visiting with Winter regularly. Brandon (shown left with brother Cameron) and Winter have similar philosophies … "where there's a will, there's a way." Like Winter, Brandon has a prosthetic leg. He shares, "Winter is a great inspiration to me and others. She just loves life and takes one day at a time."

Eleven-year-old Katrina who lives in Columbia City, Indiana stays updated daily with Winter's progress. She enjoys watching Winter, and the other dolphins and sea turtles by visiting our live Web cam. Katrina says, "Winter is like me because she wears a prosthesis for her tail and I wear a prosthesis for my leg. Having her as my best friend has made me happy and confident. She has taught me how to care for my own animals better than ever." Mom, Maria, shares, "Our family has been blessed by all of the care the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has given Winter. Katrina has grown so much since meeting this special dolphin."

Three-year-old Sophie who lives in McKinney, SophieTexas has a lot in common with Winter … both girls are the same age and they both have prosthetics. Winter has a prosthetic tail and Sophie has a prosthetic leg. Sophie's leg was amputated when she was an infant because of a cancerous growth in it. Mom, Tracy, shares, "We wanted Sophie to get to see that she's not alone and there are others like her. Winter has a magic fin, just like Sophie has a magic leg."

Five-year-old Heath who lives in Orlando, Florida, fell in love with Winter before he ever Heatheven met her. His first introduction with Winter was at his school, Waterbridge Elementary. The school has chosen Winter as its mascot for the school year, and on Fridays, well-behaved students get to take home a Winter stuffed animal. After taking the Winter doll home for the weekend, Brian counted out the change in his piggy bank so he could buy his own. Earlier this year, Heath was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy and had to have surgery on both of his legs so he could walk properly. He had casts on both legs and had to relearn how to walk. Mom, Heidi says, "Heath felt an immediate connection to Winter. He feels they have a lot in common and he truly loves her." Heath was all smiles after getting to meet Winter in person.

Five-year-old Henry who lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, was so touched by meeting Winter this summer that he went home and started figuring out ways to raise money to help her. He decided to earn money by running his first lemonade stand at the end of his driveway. Henry decorated the stand with a big picture he colored of Winter on it. He later set up a dog treat stand at a nearby dog park to raise additional money. Altogether, he raised $71 for Winter. Henry's grandpa, Joe, promised to match his donation.

Four-year-old Mya who lives in Dover Plains, New York loved her special time with Winter. Mya She enjoyed looking on as Head Trainer Abby Stone worked with Winter and her prosthetic tail. After visiting CMA, mom Cortney shared, "We have never seen such dedication and care as CMA staff showed us here. Winter has touched our hearts and will be a permanent ‘person' in our lives. She has shown us that just because you're missing a part of your body, you don't quit living. She is a strong dolphin and we can't wait to follow her story as she continues to prosper."

Six-year-old Brian who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, has come to Clearwater to visit Winter four times! On his most recent trip, he brought in loose change he collected to donate toward Winter's new home. The coins added up to $50.05! Brian loves following Winter's story on the Web in between visits. Spending some special time with Winter brought a huge smile to his face.

Twelve-year-old Ladayne who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently visited Winter for theLadayne second time. He first saw Winter soon after she was rescued. Since that time, he has been collecting Winter news clippings (sent to him by grandma who lives in Florida) and shares them with his class at school. Mom, Brandi, shares, "Ladayne has been closely watching her recovery and her journey with her new tail. He is always concerned about her health and well-being. Winter has taught him to be very conscious of sea-life and the environment." Since meeting Winter, Ladayne has insisted his family recycles and doesn't use plastic bags. "Winter has touched all of our hearts and is a wonderful example of how to overcome obstacles in life," said Brandi.

Eight-year-old Phoebe who lives in Clearwater, Florida, has discovered that Winter is a true inspiration. Phoebe (right) has been sick most of the past year and has been subjected to lots of medical tests. A day before she had a very difficult round of tests scheduled, Phoebe's parents let her pick something fun to do. She wanted to visit CMA with sister, Haley, and some friends to see Winter. Mom Heather shared, "While Phoebe was watching Winter, she came up and ‘talked' to her. It made her feel so good. She told the nurses the next day all about it." The family made another visit to CMA a few weeks later. In a letter to CMA, Phoebe shared, "When I have to go to the doctor's office, it makes me feel better when I think about Winter. If Winter can swim after her tail fell off, then I can handle all of the shots, tests, blood tests and medicines. I will be back again to visit you soon."

Six-year-old Grace who lives in Denver, Grace Colorado, heard Dolphin ArtWinter's story and wanted to do something to help her. She came up with the idea to paint marine-life portraits, sell them on eBay and then donate the proceeds to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). During her summer vacation, Grace brought the $45 she collected to CMA. She sold two paintings. Grace is still offering up her marine-life paintings in Winter's honor.

Nine-year-old McKenna who lives in Dallas, Texas, has hearing loss in both ears. For a long time, she refused to wear her hearing aid. After returning home from meeting Winter, she began happily putting her hearing aid in every day all on her own. McKenna feels that she and Winter are the same—special. Winter has positively impacted McKenna and her family in many ways. For example, her mother (Stacy—a 4th grade teacher) has brought Winter into her classroom. Her classroom is full of Winter pictures and she regularly hears her students telling others they can do anything they want because Winter beat the odds. Over the last year, McKenna and her family have traveled to the Aquarium three times just to see Winter. She also now actually wants to become a dolphin trainer when she grows up.

Seven-year-old Aidan who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, has a lot in common with Winter. Aidan has Fibular Hemimelia and was born with only one bone in her lower leg. As a result, she had to have her foot amputated and now has a prosthetic leg. Now, Aidan can keep up with her siblings. After meeting Winter, Aidan says she now has a new best friend. Mom, Tricia, shares, "Winter has positively impacted Aidan's life in many ways. One way is by helping Aidan realize she is not alone. Aidan used to complain that she was tired about answering questions about her leg. Since meeting Winter, and seeing that everyday Winter shows her tail and lets people meet her, Aidan doesn't complain anymore. In fact, she is more willing than ever to talk about it!"