Anyhow, my work at the agency has brought me into really close contact with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, or CMA. The CMA is a wildlife rescue organization, but that just scratches the surface of what they do. As people, they're a rag tag band of true believers who rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and distressed dolphins, sea turtles and river otters. The only animals that end up in permanent residence are animals that are too damaged to return to the wild.
The CMA operates in a converted sewage plant on the shores of Clearwater Harbor. They do the work they do on a shoe string budget and one of the ways they raise money is they open their facility to the public for tours. Do not expect Sea World at the CMA. It's a working animal hospital and the animals don't perform. A "dolphin show" at CMA consists of watching a veterinary exam but that's what makes it such an incredible place.
The CMA has four resident dolphins, Nicholas, Panama, Hope and Winter. All of these animals are incapable of life on their own in the wild and each has a fascinating story. Of all of them, Winter's story is probably the most compelling. If you don't know her story now give it a few months because by July, it will be unavoidable. Warner Brother's is distributing a film that opens in September called Dolphin Tale that's all about her. The media barrage starts Memorial Day. Here's the trailer.
When she was around a month old, the dolphin now called Winter was orphaned and in her confusion, got entangled in the anchor line of a crab trap. As she fought the rope, she entangled herself more and ended up being beached on the east coast of Florida. She was found by a wildlife organization over there and brought to the CMA and no one could believe she was still alive.
The vets at CMA amputated what was left of her tail and despite her disability, she showed a remarkable will to live. After a few months, the staff of the CMA heard from a prosthetic manufacturer who wanted to help. For the first time ever, a marine mammal was successfully fitted with a prosthetic tail.
In the course of developing a new tail for Winter, Hanger Prosthetics developed a host of new technologies that they applied to human prosthetics. In helping this injured dolphin Hanger has enhanced the lives of countless human beings.
It doesn't stop with prosthetic development. the CMA runs programs for autistic kids and in the course of extended interactions with Winter, Panama, Nicholas and Hope, these kids break through the haze and reconnect with their families. They have a program for amputees and another one for veterans. In the course of these interactions, these people get their lives back.
Stories such as this one:
Three-year-old Sophie who lives in McKinney,Texas 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.”warm my heart in ways I didn't know were possible.
I met Winter for the first time a month ago at a marketing meeting with the CMA's CEO as we sought out ways to co-market my current client with the CMA. I find myself making excuses to have more meetings with the CMA so I can hang out with this creature.
I took this photo of her on Monday afternoon when she was making eyes at me. I have witnesses so I know I'm not imagining the fact that she recognizes me now and knows who I am.
When she sees me now she stops what she's doing, stares and whistles through her blow hole.
The CMA is about to break ground on a new facility in anticipation of the publicity crush that's going to surround the release of this movie in September.
Their new building is spectacular and the money they'll raise in the next year is going to allow them to help injured animals (and injured people) in ways they can't now and it's great to see an organization such as this one succeed as spectacularly as their about to.
To that end and as of another meeting with them yesterday, I've agreed to manage their social media efforts from this point forward. This is going to be a great ride and as a bonus, I get to keep hanging out with Winter, Panama, Hope and Nicholas, not to mention the turtles and otters. But more than even that, I'll be documenting the lives that get changed as a result of this amazing organization.
I say all the time that I'm the most fortunate man alive and opportunities like this back up that claim. Never in a million years would I have guessed three-and-a-half years when I started a kitchen design blog that it would lead to the life I lead today.
If you'd like to learn more about the work of the CMA, visit their website. And I'll be back to writing about design again shortly, I promise.