September 5, 2013 – Eight-year-old Cieren Kelso and Winter the dolphin have more things in common than most people and dolphins. That is because they both have prosthetic limbs!
Winter, the star of the movie Dolphin Tale, is Cieran's idol because they both swim with the help of prosthetic flippers.
Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter lives, usually only lets visitors swim in the dolphin tank every three weeks or so, but when its chief executive officer David Yates heard Cieran's story he said he "couldn't not" make a swim-and-greet happen.
Local tourism officials flew Cieran and his family to the aquarium from England after a year of planning. His parents had a hard time keeping the surprise a secret for so long! They told Cieran that the trip was just going to be a business trip for his father Gary, and it wasn't until they were halfway there that flight attendants announced that the trip was actually for Cieran to meet Winter!
Cieran caught a disease called meningitis when he was 13 months old and it ended up costing both of his legs and most of his fingertips. He still loves to play sports like soccer and gymnastics with his friends, but it's taken him a little longer to learn how to swim.
To help him catch up with his friends, Cieran's father Gary took a pair of swimming flippers and, with the help of a prosthetic specialist, created prosthetic flippers so that Cieran could move just like his idol, Winter.
"His first words when he saw the firm was 'Winter's disabled, just like me. It's just been a dolphin on a film for a long time and now it's real…It's just a dream come true," said Gary.
Before diving in Cieran had to replace his prosthetic legs with his prosthetic flippers. Once in the tank he fed Winter fish and played with her for more than an hour. Cieran's five-year-old sister Layla-Eve and Winter's "sister" Hope also joined them for awhile. He had so much fun he said he could have swam "for a million hours" if he was allowed to!
After the swim Cieran announced he wants to work at the aquarium so that he can always look after Winter, his new best friend. "The feeling was great. Emotional to be swimming with a dolphin. I love dolphins. But the most best dolphin I've ever loved is Winter," he said.