Dive Heart helps people with disabilities build confidence through scuba diving

Scuba diving can be a way to enjoy being in the water from a different perspective, but one organization is using it to give people with disabilities a fresh outlook on life.

Dive Heart hosted one of it’s Scuba Experience programs at Boylan high school for a select group of people from the stateline area. 

The non profit works around the world helping people with a variety of disabilities to build self-esteem through scuba diving. 

"We work with people with cerebal palsy and muscular dystrophy, a lot of people on the autism spectrum. If there’s no medical reason for them not to get in the water, we work with them," said Dive Heart Executive Director Tinamarie Hernandez. 

This is Dive Heart’s second trip to Rockford.

They put on an event last year after hearing the story of Amber Rangel who was disabled in a water ski accident four years ago. 

"Through becoming a quadriplegic she has done all of these organizations and Dive Heart has really become a part of our family," said Rangel’s sister Ariel Krueger. 

Last year’s event was organized in Rangel’s backyard pool to make it convenient for people to come participate. 

Sarah Jones was one of the divers at last year’s event.

Jones has Transverse Myelitis, an auto immune that attacks her spinal cord making her unable to walk. 

She says she came back to Dive Heart because she feels free while underwater.

"I’m also able to walk a little bit in the water. I feel like a normal person so I really like it," said Jones.

Jones says Dive Heart has given her not only an exciting experience but also a way to meet and connect with people in the community. 

"It’s really kind of a beautiful thing just everyone working together and having fun and helping out," said Jones. 

The feelings Jones has are just one example of how Dive Heart tries to motivate people through their motto: "Imagine the Possibilities." 

"We want to encourage people to be more independent, be more self confident, to do something really cool that a lot of people are afraid to do but they can do it," said Hernandez. 

Dive Heart hopes to expand their programs to eventually have an office build here in Rockford to bring in more divers. 

You can find out more about Dive Heart’s programs and how you can volunteer to be a part of them by going to diveheart.org. 

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