Hi everyone! This is Sammy-Joe. We haven't had a Smarty Sunday for a while, have we? I thought I'd do one today. Do you mind if we have it on Saturday this week instead of Sunday? Great! You're going to love this one.
A few days ago our Mama went to have a slumber party with her human cousins, who are only 9 and 7 years old. While she was there, they rented the movie Dolphin Tale. Mama is crazy about all animals, including dolphins, but she usually avoids watching animal movies because she hates when animals die. Luckily, this sweet movie had a happy ending!
Mama, her cousins, and her cousins' parents were all charmed by this movie... especially at the end, when there was a little paragraph telling them that it was based on a true story! However, Mama wondered exactly how true this movie was, since she knows that Hollywood sometimes takes real life stories and changes them around. For instance, when she was a kid she watched a movie about a little girl who taught a flock of baby geese how to fly, and was excited to hear it was a true story... but was sort of disappointed to learn that the person who taught the geese how to fly was not a little girl at all, but a grown adult man.
Mama rushed to the computer and did some research. It turned out she was right... Hollywood did change the story around a little! She thought the real story was worth sharing with you.
Winter is a real dolphin who really did get entangled in a crab trap and had a near death experience.The baby dolphin was rescued by workers from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who did not include any ten-year-old children or mischievous pelicans. The little dolphin's tale really did have to be amputated, and she did learn to swim without it by wriggling around like a snake. Thats a cool story. But the even cooler part of the story begins in 2007.
The hero in the true story... besides Winter, of course... is Katrina, a little girl who was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency. This is birth defect in which the hip end of the thighbone does not develop. Katrina's right leg is not as long as her left leg. In fact, her right foot hangs where her left knee is. By the time Katrina was in third grade, she had had suffered through multiple surgeries and body casts. At school, she was a quiet kid who had trouble fitting in, and was teased by the other children. (Our Mama knows how this is... she too was tormented by the other kids when she was growing up!) It didn't help that Katrina had a prosthetic right leg that was painful for her to wear.
To try to brighten Katrina's life, her parents allowed her to pick a place for the family to go on vacation. She chose... like most kids would... Disney World! Her mom found out that a small aquarium was near Disney World and thought it would be a nice add-on to the trip. Katrina's mother had no clue that this visit would change Katrina's life!
The aquarium was Clearwater Marine Aquarium. There, when visitors viewed Winter, they learned that her injury was the result of human carelessness. The idea was for people to realize how their actions could effect animals. But what Katrina noticed was the "stub" where Winter's tale used to be. A stub, Katrina thought, that was similar to her own leg. She and the little dolphin locked eyes, and Katrina fell in love!
After the vacation was over, Katrina couldn't stop talking about Winter. She begged her parents to take her back to Florida. Forget Disney World! Katrina wanted to see her dolphin friend! Katrina's mother called the CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who the family had gotten the chance to meet during their visit. She let the CEO, David Yates, talk to Katrina and update her on Winter. The two began talking daily, on the phone and through text messages. Katrina could also watch Winter every day on the aquarium's web cam.
Katrina also traveled back to the aquarium many times in order to see Winter. She was adopted as an unofficial member of the staff, and got to roam the aquarium, sort of the way Sawyer and Hazel did in the movie! She got to tell Winter's story to visitors. Now Katrina felt like she fit in... with Winter, and the others who loved the dolphin. She had a purpose. Being part of Winter's life brought Katrina out of her shell.
In the meantime, Winter had become more and more famous. Other people with physical disabilities, including children, felt like they connected with Winter. Winter also had a new prosthetic tail, designed by Dan Strzempka. He, too, had a prosthetic leg, which had inspired him to become a prosthetic designer.
When Dan Strzempka met Katrina and saw her ill-fitting, painful prosthetic leg, he offered to make her a new one. The new prosthetic leg, like Winter's tail, was more comfortable and didn't cause her pain or give her blisters. The prosthetic even had a Winter T-shirt embedded in it, so Katrina could always carry Winter with her!
When Warner Bros heard about the story, they decided it was Hollywood-worthy. They spoke with Katrina's family and bought the rights to the story. The family imagined that the story would be changed a little, but not so drastically! The star of the story was not a little girl with proximal femoral focal deficiency, but two children with healthy legs. When Katrina found out that she had been written out of her best friend's story, she was angry. However, her mother tried to rationalize that, since the story was raising money for Winter and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, it was okay. But even her parents agreed that it was kind of rude of the movie makers to leasve Katrina completely out of the movie-making process. They never included her in any interviews, or to the premiere, or offered for her to be an "extra" in the movie. They never mentioned her name at all.
Katrina is twelve years old now, happy and healthy. She is now able to be physically active, riding horses and jumping on the trampoline. She would like to write her own book about her experiences with Winter... if Warner Bros will allow her. (They own the rights to her story, remember?)
Mama is glad she can tell her cousins that the real life Winter story has a "kid hero" in it. Sawyer and Hazel are fictional, but Katrina is real! And so is Winter. (By the way, Winter starred herself in the movie.)
We love watching Winter on her website, See Winter. Our favorite web cam is the one with commercials. Its brighter and clearer, and you can even make it fill up your whole computer screen. You can see Winter chillin' in her swimming pool with her best dolphin friend!
Thanks for reading Smarty Sunday (on a Saturday,) everyone! I hope you liked it!
Edited to add: If you look in the comments of this post, you'll see that Katrina Simpkins actually commented! We are so excited that she read our blog! She wanted everyone to know that, even though her feelings were hurt that she was left out of the movie, she completely supports the movie itself because it is about her best friend Winter, and because it will help Winter and the aquarium. So, nobody go boycotting Dolphin Tale or anything drastic like that! Our Mama loved it and hopes to watch it again, so maybe we'll see it too! Also, Katrina let us know that there is a documentary, called The Little Dolphin That Could, that tells the completely true tale of Winter. Katrina is included in that documentary and is very proud of it Its available in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium online gift shop (and probably the real gift shop, too, if you go there) for $14.99. We think we might buy it! Katrina, if you read this again, thanks for visiting our blog!