By Hinsdale Magazine

How did you first become involved with Diveheart?

It’s a funny story on how I got involved as a volunteer with Diveheart around eighteen years ago. It all started when my dive buddy and Diveheart Adaptive instructor Bob Hemmidinger, tried talking me into volunteering. I told him I’d be happy to work with veterans, but had a fear of being responsible for kids. He assured me that Diveheart worked with veterans. So I showed up at the next pool event at 8am on a Saturday, and all I saw was kids. I said, where are the veterans? He said, they get here at noon, now get in the water and help us out. I reluctantly did help with the kids and after that I fell in love and I was hooked. I work as a facilities engineer at Edward-Elmhurst hospital and I was just a recreational diver before working with Diveheart. I had no experience in working with people with disabilities before that either. Now I am a Divemaster, and am confident that my adaptive scuba training and experience has helped me become a better diver and adaptive dive buddy. I’ve had so many wonderfully moving experiences that have brought me to tears it’s hard to keep track or pick out a favorite one. It’s like asking a five year old what their favorite ice cream is. I’ve seen some participants really overcome their fear and come out of the water exclaiming I did it, I did it. It really builds confidence. After a Diveheart pool session the kids go to school on Monday and the “able bodied kids” ask what they did over the weekend.

They say, Oh I went scuba diving. Whaaaaaat? Oh yeah, here’s some pics of me playing catch at the bottom of the pool! Now the term “Special” takes on a whole new meaning. They become special for what they CAN do, not what they can’t. That confidence effects these kids in so many ways. Little kids I worked with years ago are now teens or older. I can see over time the long-term effects of our work. I have received some recognition as someone who is involved with the community through my employer who has made a modest donation in my name to Diveheart. My wife worked with the Philanthropic department of her company to grant a sizable donation. Anytime a situation arises where we can help the organization, we try to. Neither of us has a lot of free time, so we do what we can. If someone asked me what the best part of volunteering with Diveheart is, I would say the feeling I get seeing the smiles and the look of accomplishment on our participants faces. There’s nothing like it. I feel like the most selfish person in the world at times because of the amazing feeling I get working with our participants. And anybody can feel that way by just helping out. No task is too small. I think that Diveheart participants and volunteers are both positively affected ,and you can tell by the smiles.