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Remembering Winter the Dolphin — An Inspiration to Patients

Posted on Nov 17, 2021

Austin Highsmith, who played Phoebe in both Dolphin Tale movies, signs autographs at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in 2015.
Austin Highsmith, who played Phoebe in both Dolphin Tale movies, signs autographs at the hospital in 2015.

The world woke up Friday to learn that Winter the dolphin had died. Thanks to a long-standing relationship with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital patients got to know Winter in 2011 before she was a movie star.

During that special visit to Johns Hopkins All Children’s, patients well enough to leave their rooms gathered to watch a video about the Aquarium's star inhabitant, Winter, who lost her tail due to damage from fishing line. She was rescued off the Florida coast and taken in by the Florida Marine Aquarium. Their efforts to fit Winter with an artificial tail garnered national media attention and led to innovations in prosthetic design for humans as well. It also led to a movie script.

Prosthetics are nothing new at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. Artificial limbs are part of life for some young patients. But it's not every day the patients get to check out a prosthetic dolphin tail.

During the visit, patients had a chance to hold one of the prosthetic tails that Winter had already outgrown. They all agreed it felt kind of funny, almost like gummy bears. The rest is history. Winter's story became a movie called Dolphin Tale.

After Winter achieved stardom, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium would arrange for cast members from the movie to visit Johns Hopkins All Children’s patients and share the story of Winter. Patients received copies of the original Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.

Winter’s legacy was an inspiration to many and will live on for generations to come.


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