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Disabled aim high, dive deep
diverdown53 - 12/08/2010 11:05 AM
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Category: Educational
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Disabled aim high, dive deep Jackie Danielsson quickly experienced the joy scuba diving instructors feel when they see their students succeed.
Little did she know at the time that satisfaction would be magnified for her even more in the specialized field of scuba instruction she would pursue.
Jackie and Roger Haseltine, who had taught her to dive, would later establish Adaptive Scuba Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing disabled children, adults and military veterans to the underwater world of scuba.
Adaptive Scuba Network, which operates out of Northern California’s Napa Valley, gets its inspiration and training from Diveheart, an Illinois-based pioneer in the field, whose long-term goal is to make scuba as available to the disabled as skiing is today.
Jackie contacted Diveheart founder Jim Elliott, started helping his organization, and, in turn, Jim decided to train Jackie, Roger and a few others to be dive buddies and instructors for the disabled.
The Adaptive Scuba Network offers scuba training to people with a variety of disabilities, from quadriplegics, to paraplegics, those with traumatic brain injuries, the blind, deaf and people missing limbs. It also works with the Yountville Veterans Home in the Napa Valley with its Pathway Home program for returning veterans or those still deployed who have problems re-adjusting due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“If possible, we certify everyone to PADI standards. If not, we certify them as HSA (Handicapped Scuba Association),” said Jackie.
For Jackie, the stimulus to get involved in this project came at the Northwest Dive Show in Washington State, when she met a medic who had returned from the war in Iraq.
“He wouldn’t go outside. Any noise set him off,” said Jackie. “Scuba diving saved his life. He was the one who set it in stone for me to pursue it.”
Impressed with the work of Diveheart and its ability to reach out, Jackie and Roger decided to work with that organization and help any way they could. They are currently creating an adaptive scuba website with chat rooms for the various groups they serve so people with disabilities can talk with others around the world. “Jim (Diveheart’s Elliott) will train them. We will be an aftercare.”
The website, which Jackie hopes will be available in about a month (late September) will be and her email at the organization is
Adaptive Scuba Network is supported by fundraisers such as a golf tournament on Oct. 3 or from money that comes in from teaching able-bodied divers to be dive buddies for the disabled.
For Jackie Danielsson, who always wanted to be a scuba diver but didn’t know if she could handle it until a ride on a river raft gave her the confidence to try, it has been quite a journey. She has worked her way up to be a dive master.
Seeing their students’ eyes light up when they accomplish something they believed was beyond them is special for most people who teach. But given the disabilities of the students she teaches, it is extra special for Jackie.
They are students like Chris, a quadriplegic who needs dive buddies to push him through the water. But he flourishes with the underwater experience.
Then there’s Tiffany, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident. Such injuries often result in short-term memories, prompting Tiffany’s mother to worry that her daughter would never remember the hand signals divers are taught.
“Three weeks later she still remembered the signals. Her mom was floored. She was like ‘I cannot believe what this has done for her.’ ”
That, for a teacher, is the ultimate reward.

Thanks Jackie

Kathy Dowsett