News08/07/2007, Theresa Brown Cortez (210) 347-9383
Dive Pirates Look to Banner 4th Year With Capt. Dawn Halfaker
On the heels of its 3rd annual Caribbean trip honoring three newly-trained adaptive divers who completed their open water certification along side three returning adaptive divers, the Dive Pirates Foundation kicks off its fourth year with the announcement of its latest student, Capt. Dawn Halfaker.
“I saw a story on this amazing woman, an army veteran wounded on the front lines in Iraq, and I thought, maybe she would enjoy scuba diving with us,” said foundation co-founder Barbara Thompson.
“She found me on the internet, and said, we offer free training, equipment, and a trip to the Caymans for an open-water trip, and I’m not one to say no to a challenge,” Halfaker said. She starts her adaptive training next week at The Dive Shop in Memphis. Store owner and SSI executive director Doug McNeese will donate all scuba gear while foundation co-founder Sophie Wimberley will donate all adaptive training.
Awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after losing her right arm in an enemy attack, Halfaker credits her West Point training to stay focused and give orders to save the lives of those around her. She also credits her West Point basketball team for the discipline and drive as she went through rehabilitation.
“It is exciting to have the opportunity to give something back to the brave men and women who have fought for our country,” said Randy Wright, manager of The Dive Shop. “Scuba is one of the most liberating sports for those with disabilities, with the added benefit of being an adventure.”
“A lot of the pain goes, disappears, it is like an in-body experience, not out of body, definitely an in-body experience; it is almost like you transform from the person you are in the chair, to a brand new person in the water,” said Shawn Unruh (USMC retired). A quadriplegic, Unruh received his certification in 2005 and went with the Dive Pirates Foundation to the Bahamas in 2006 Now an avid scuba diver, he and his wife, Alicia, paid their own way to join the Foundation’s 2007 trip to Cayman Brac, and have already put in their deposit for the 2008 trip planned for June 7-14 at the Brac Reef Resort, Cayman Brac.
“This is what it is all about, it is not a one-time thing, we want to give our students something they can do for a lifetime,” said Wimberley. “And it’s happening, former students, people who have found us on the web, they are coming to dive with other adaptives and non-adaptives, it’s amazing.”
The Dive Pirates Foundation is planning a joint fundraiser this year with SSI at DEMA’s annual conference in Orlando at the Platinum Pro event Thursday, November 1. Along with similar organizations like Dive Heart and Underwater Warriors, the message of Dive Pirates at DEMA is to increase the understanding and the importance of Adaptive Scuba to the diving community. “The growing interest for adaptive diving is much larger than we realize, both for military heroes and everyday heroes,” Thompson added. “We are all working toward the goal of enriching their lives through the adventure of scuba.”
The Dive Pirates Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing scuba diving to persons with disabilities and joining them with the mainstream of divers. Its vision is to create a community of adaptive divers that will dive and travel in the mainstream world of scuba diving through education and overcoming obstacles.