If there is one thing that takes the sport of scuba diving from a great sport to an exciting and engaging life experience, it’s the people. The scuba diving community is filled with many interesting people who have a genuine passion for the sport and a desire to share their experiences with others. One of the Scuba Dive Advisor team missions is to shine a light on these amazing people and assist scuba inspired ventures attract more people to our great sport by providing a venue where deserving businesses and people can get the exposure they are entitled to. Because, after all, what makes this sport amazing? Possibility thinkers and people who are willing to take the road less traveled! These are the people who have blazed the trail over the decades since recreational scuba was made possible by the adventurous Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau when they started Aqua Lung and all of the countless others who have made it possible for everyone to experience things many of us never dreamed of.
There are always individuals who stand out as pioneers, but none has moved our team the way that Jim Elliott and the Diveheart team has. Jim’s passion and story made all four of us stop and take stock of what’s truly important in our own lives. In the face of adversity, promise is always nearby and Jim opened our hearts to remind us of this important fact. You see, Diveheart focuses on “making possibilities for disabilities” by building “confidence and independence in children, adults, and veterans with disabilities using SCUBA diving as a tool.”
Here is Jim’s story…
When Jim’s eldest daughter was born with impaired vision that made her legally blind, Jim was faced with the challenge to keep her motivated and encouraged to excel throughout her life and have the courage to try new things. This is when Jim taught his daughter how to snow ski. What happened next was incredible! After a weekend on the slopes, Jim’s daughter returned to school with a brand new confidence and more importantly, hope! Telling her friends that she went skiing over the weekend, they did not fully believe it until she showed them pictures. Jim and his wife, almost immediately, began to see a transformation within their daughter as she began to succeed in school and extra-curricular activities.
After witnessing the effect skiing had on his daughter, Jim got excited and began to consider how he could do something similar to help children, adults and veterans, with both physical and cognitive disabilities, to find the most important thing in the world. HOPE!
Throughout his life, Jim was a recreational scuba diver who would get out and dive whenever he could. As he began to think about the things he could do to help others, he looked to his own passion for scuba diving.
It was at this point in 1996 that Jim made the difficult decision to walk away from a successful career in advertising to “become a volunteer.” Jim became immersed in his new life and for the next five years used using scuba diving as a conduit to help people with disabilities and to achieve his ultimate goal of establishing Diveheart.
Diveheart was founded in 2001 by Jim Elliott. He took the giant leap to give people the gift of hope, and what he and his team have been able to do in just over ten years is nothing short of amazing. Diveheart has trained people around the world with the skills necessary to become dive buddies to many people with disabilities that would have otherwise never allowed them to scuba dive. To make things even more rewarding, and discovered in large part because of Jim’s commitment, scuba diving is proving to be therapeutic to people who are paraplegic and quadriplegic. Since it has been discovered that scuba therapy is effective in helping reduce pain and in many cases increase mobility, much research has been devoted to the subject.
People with disabilities, who are victimized by the natural effects of gravity on land, experience something different once they are submersed under water. The properties of water are magical to a scuba diver and it is best evidenced and understood with individuals who are paraplegic or quadriplegic. “Thanks to the wonder of the water column, the oceans and lakes of the world become the forgiving weightless environment of outer space, giving perfect buoyancy to a child or adult who would otherwise struggle on land.”
After being introduced to diving, many of Jim’s students began to report that their constant pain would disappear for weeks at a time after a dive session. Miraculously, other students who were told they would never walk again, are now on the verge of throwing away their walking cane to walk on their own. Better yet, one of Jim’s diving participants is hoping to run a 5K race in the next couple of years. With the hope and love that Diveheart is able to give to people, we have no doubt that these dreams will become reality.
This past weekend we met Jim and THIS GUY IS IT! He is just like you and me; he has a story. His ability to build a relationship one person at a time builds hope. It is difficult to leave a conversation with anyone on the Diveheart team without a smile on your face or a tear in your eye. Jim is passionate about his cause, sincere in his approach and inspiring to us. Thank you Jim and Diveheart!
So what can you do?
The most obvious way you can help Diveheart is through donations. Second, when you change your gear, donate your scuba equipment. Your old gear can help Jim’s team to teach people how to dive. However, the most valuable investment you can make into the success of this heartwarming organization is your time. Become a dive buddy! Attend one of Jim’s training sessions and you will certainly become part of something amazing. Learning to assist divers with disabilities takes certified scuba divers three evenings of training. Once you are trained, you will have the opportunity to participate in the dive trips that Diveheart organizes each year.
Thank you Jim and thank you to everyone at Diveheart for giving us inspiration and hope. We admire everything you stand for and look forward to our first dive buddy training with you in January.
Until then keep on diving and inspiring!