One might not think that someone
with no arms and no legs could swim, much less scuba dive, but with the help of one non-profit
organization based in the Chicagoland area, children, veterans and people of all abilities around
the world can benefit from zero gravity and scuba therapy.
The Downers Grove-based Diveheart Foundation has been serving individuals with
everything from spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries to those on the autism spectrum
and with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since 2001, this 501 C3, volunteer-driven charity has done everything from helping
to facilitate cutting-edge scuba therapy research with university medical centers around the
country to launching a leading international adaptive scuba training program for scuba instructors,
dive buddies and adaptive divers (Diveheart refers to people with disabilities as adaptive divers,
not handicapped or disabled divers).
"It's not about scuba diving,"; according to Tinamarie Hernandez, Diveheart
"Diveheart's ultimate goal is to take the unrealized human potential that
exists with individuals with disabilities and create a paradigm shift in their lives," she
"We take Chris in the wheelchair and help him or her become Chris the scuba diver.
Now Chris is no longer defined by his or her disability" she adds.
"Diveheart then helps direct them to activities like coral reef restoration, marine
biology and oceanography, giving them focus, purpose and helping them to feel valued while they are
learning to become good stewards of the environment."
Diveheart's free scuba experience programs reach from coast to coast in the
U.S. and are replicated by Diveheart teams as far away as Malaysia.
Researchers from around the country have found that the benefits of scuba therapy
and zero gravity underwater range from relief of symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder
and chronic pain to increased focus and a sense of well-being in those with developmental
Researchers have also discovered that there are big benefits in going deep
because the body produces an extra output of serotonin once divers reach 66 feet underwater.
However, those with developmental and physical disabilities can benefit from the very first pool
Diveheart's ultimate goal is to secure funding to build a deep warm-water research
and training facility so that the benefits of scuba therapy can be replicated in a safe, confined,
More information on Diveheart and scuba therapy can be found at www.diveheart.org