"Winter's Tale" Topic of Discussion
Frank Dame, Executive Vice President of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Addresses Clearwater Rotary Club.
On Wednesday, September 16th, Frank Dame, Executive Vice President of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) and Lee Behensky, Director of Business Development for the organization made a presentation to the Clearwater Rotary Club to review their mission and current operations. Dame stated the Aquarium's mission is the Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of marine mammals and sea turtles as well as public education of preservation of the marine environment. According to Dame, several years ago the Aquarium was on the verge of collapse; however, after several leadership changes and renovations to its facility, the Aquarium is now prospering.
Another significant event that changed the Aquarium's destiny was the rescue of "Winter" a bottlenose dolphin who was entangled in a crab trap on the East coast of Florida and brought to the Aquarium for rehabilitation. Winter survived but she lost her tail fluke due to the entanglement. A major prosthetics company read her story and volunteered to develop a tail for her so she would be able to swim again like other dolphins. Winter is such an inspiration to others with disabilities that she has obtained celebrity status having appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, CNN and has been mentioned in numerous articles written about her in popular magazines such as Woman's World, Good Housekeeping, People Magazine and Readers Digest. Additionally, a documentary has been produced explaining her story and a book, Winter's Tail, published by Scholastic is about to be released.
People from all over the world are coming to visit the Aquarium. Bucking the downturn in the economy, CMA is a local success story with its attendance up by approximately 34-percent over 2008. "We attribute this to Winter's celebrity, our renovations and unique guest experience", said Dame. "Our smaller facility cannot compete with the larger ones like Florida Aquarium or attractions such as Busch Gardens. But what we can do is provide a unique and personalized guest experience that will be remembered for its intimate focus on family and educational value," Dame explains.
CMA also oversees all of Pinellas County's turtle nesting program. This was a record year for turtle nesting with 137 nest identified and more than 9,000 hatchling released so far.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a 501 (c)(3) Not For Profit organization. Over the past several years, the Clearwater Rotary has contributed to this cause and this past year, contributions helped to prepare their pontoon boats for certification to take children out on the water for summer camp learning activities.
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