Meet Deena Hoagland of Island Dolphin Care (Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2015)

When Deena and Peter Hoagland found themselves the parents of a paralyzed and visually impaired son, they discovered a way to not only help their son Joe but also help thousands of other families in similar circumstances.

In 1986, Joe Hoagland was born with a rare, life-threatening heart condition; he suffered a massive stroke during the third of five open-heart surgeries. The Hoagland family had recently moved to Key Largo, Florida from Colorado where the high altitude was compromising Joe’s health. The Hoaglands left their lives and friends behind in an effort to save their son. Starting a new life in Key Largo was lonely and overwhelming. Between doctor and therapy appointments there was little time left for family fun. Finding a place for Joe to play and just “be a kid” was difficult, especially since the stroke had robbed Joe of his independence and thus his favorite activity, swimming. Not knowing where else to turn, Deena, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, called an education and research dolphin facility in Key Largo. The owner told Deena to bring Joe around one day and he could meet the dolphins. Deena showed up at the door of the facility within minutes. Joe met a wondrous dolphin named Fonzie and a special friendship was immediately formed. Over the course of the next year, their friendship grew stronger. Deena utilized the playful interactions between Joe and Fonzie as a motivator to strengthen Joe, both physically and emotionally. Joe wanted to spend as much time as he could with his new dolphin friend. He worked extra hard in his other therapies with the hope of someday swimming with Fonzie. Approximately two years after Joe’s first dolphin encounter he independently slid into the water and swam with his old friend Fonzie. Today Joe is an adult with few remaining signs of the stroke. Deena theorized that if the dolphins could motivate and encourage her son, they might do the same for other children, veterans wounded in combat and families in similar situations. In 1997, Island Dolphin Care was created as a 501ã3 not-for-profit organization. Deena Hoagland, LCSW is the Executive Director of IDC and her husband Peter Hoagland is General Manager. Through their experiences with Joe they understand the unique path that parents of children with special needs. Parents arriving at IDC programs feel accepted and understood in a stress-free environment. IDC employs therapists with a background in special education, social work, and recreation therapy. The skilled therapists at Island Dolphin Care use the motivation and excitement generated in the therapy sessions to introduce new techniques and resources to each child and family.

Island Dolphin Care provides its core 5-day programs to families providing the opportunity to develop a personal relationship. IDC is proud of the special family experience it provides. Through their own personal experience Peter and Deena found that it can be difficult to find activities that the entire family can participate in. IDC’s therapy process includes everyone. Parents and siblings participate in every aspect of the therapy programs and are often invited to assist during the dolphin swim and on land therapy sessions. The programs end each week with a nature swim in celebration of the wondrous weeklong experience.

The unique combination of play and animal assisted therapy provides special needs children and adults with encouragement and joy. Island Dolphin Care strives to build self-esteem and self-confidence through the use of our wonderful dolphin friends for each participant. The dolphins provide unconditional motivation and support to those with various disabilities. Families from around the world have visited Island Dolphin Care and have left with memories that will last a lifetime. Everyone is capable of laughing, smiling, and feeling proud…at Island Dolphin Care each participant is given the opportunity to develop - to feel independent and confident, to laugh, smile, and feel proud in every aspect of their life.

For more information see Island Dolphin Care’s website at or call 305-451-5884.

A few testimonials:

“Every child deserves the opportunity to participate in activities that will enhance their emotional and physical well-being through joyful experiences.”

“Without judgment, without fear, they interact and accept you as something wonderful”

“Upon arriving on Monday morning until our departure Friday afternoon your staff could not do enough for us. They gave no only their time and expertise but their love and caring, Randy was comfortable from the first hello and I was able to relax and not worry whether he was in good hands and were all his needs being met. I didn't realize how much I needed that, I guess it’s been about 7 ½ years since I actually really relaxed. For that I thank you. The bottom line for my family is that you were able to get Randy to not only talk in complete sentences but give him an experience he will fondly remember for many years to come.”

(Deena Hoagland is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2015)

A 'Farewell' Blog from Jessie

Dr Jessie Stone was Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014. Here's a 'farewell' blog she wrote at the end of the year, sorry we've been a bit slow to post it. It may be that her year as our Champion is over, but we will be staying in touch with Jessie and we hope to publish occasional updates in the future. In the meantime we wish Jessie and Soft Power Health - her charity in Uganda - the very best for all that the future brings.

"My Dad always used to say that life went by in the blink of an eye, one day you are 16 and the next you wake up and you are 60. “It will all be over before you know it, so make sure you are having fun!” he would say. It took me a long time to figure that out - I am a little bit of a slow learner, but eventually I got it! And he was a big believer in following your dreams, passions and interests too. He lived that way and set a wonderful example for many people he came in contact with – myself included. Now that I am in the interval between 16 and 60, I feel the impact of his words even more. For most of my life, I have been lucky enough to follow my dreams and passions. This year, I turned 47 – I am not sure what those numbers mean or what they are supposed to feel like, but overall, I feel really good and am so happy to still be able to play outside as much as I do and do work that I really love. (Recess was clearly never long enough for me as a kid.) My dad died in December 8 years ago. He was a big supporter of everything I did, and I have always tried to keep his words close – they seem to be really good words to live by for me, and they give me pause to think about how things are going, especially at this time of the year.

"One thing at 47 that I am really grateful for is feeling good and healthy. More than ever - I don’t take those things for granted, and I am so happy to be able to do all the things I love to do. Living through injury and coming out the other side to see that you can actually come back to a higher level in your performance and in your mental preparation is a huge boost. It opens your mind up to so many possibilities that perhaps you had never thought of before. And living through injury also makes you realize what a gift it is to be healthy. Injury can definitely be a gift, even if it doesn't seem that way at the moment it happens. Every time I get in my boat, I sincerely appreciate that experience of paddling – no matter what I am doing, whether its running a river, parking and playing, or even doing a flat water workout!

"For many years, I have wondered why people “retire” from paddling and if I would feel like there is a time to retire. Unless someone has a physical reason for not paddling, I have never understood “retirement”, and I keep wondering as time goes by whether one day, I am going to wake up and want to stop paddling. Well, after many years of living with myself and getting to know myself better and better, I am finally realizing that if you are lucky enough to find something that you love to do and there is no reason you have to stop doing it, why stop? Sure your body and your mind will change and what you enjoy doing in your kayak may also change in time but that does not mean these are changes for the worse – often they are for the better.

"Today, I still have the same love and obsession with paddling that I had 20 years ago. On a freezing day recently, I found myself sitting in my car, all my paddling gear on, strategizing about how to keep myself nice and warm until I got to the water to start my on water warm up. This is exactly what I did 20 or 15 or 10 years ago. Does it sound weird? Maybe a little, but there is so much joy in the experience for me that it would be hard to replace it with doing something else. Part of what makes this joy so great is sharing it with other people – sharing your fun, your adventure, that’s one of the greatest gifts of all. I still try to have some adventure and challenge in every day and I try to share that as much as possible. Today, that can manifest itself in many different ways – either with kayaking and/or with Soft Power Health or just getting out with friends or family. Whatever the experience is, it's a wonderful affirmation of being alive. Eleanor Roosevelt was so right!

"Paddling has given me a gift that I am not a good enough writer to explain adequately, but it has opened up vast worlds that I never would have known existed and it has allowed me access. Some very generous and wonderful people along the way took me in and helped nurture this passion. Without them, none of what’s happened since then would have occurred. For the people along the way who have encouraged me and who continue to encourage me, I am so grateful. Thank you for believing in me even when I did not necessarily know what was/is possible. From all that positive feedback, I see clearly how powerful the value of You can and I can is. Just believing that something is possible is more than half the challenge of achieving it. All of us are capable of so much more than we think – the hard part is remembering that on a regular basis especially when life might throw some curve balls your way, and life is guaranteed to do that!

"When I started the Inner City Kids Kayaking Camp in 2002, I felt first and foremost that I wanted to share the joy that paddling had given me with kids who would never otherwise have access to that experience – today, I still feel the same way and I still love doing the camps as much as when it all started. The experience has changed over time but it’s only gotten better. One thing that's clear is that those camps are so great because many people come together to give their time, energy, and expertize to make them happen. Without that, none of it would be possible! During this end of year reflection period, I am thinking about all the ups and downs that have come this year – most of them ups!

"2014 will be remembered for a number of amazing things: an awesome wheelchair distribution to people in need in Uganda thanks to the help of the Jackson family, the Walkabout Foundation, and Soft Power Health volunteers, amazing surfing of Club Wave and Nile Special especially on EJ’s 50th birthday, Wave O Saurus in April, the Tariffville Triple Crown, Soft Power Health’s new physical therapist Stephen Kato, A great Inner City Kids Kayaking Camp – the 10th year, Thun’s new world class wave, and Winter paddling at the Housatonic with lots of water! Most of all, I am thankful for all the friends and family that have been there for me. Nothing would be possible without that. Here is to looking to an even more wonderful in 2015. As my dad would say, “The best is yet to come!”"

The Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2015 is Deena Hoagland of Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida. We'll be bringing you occasional blogs from Deena during the year.

We've won Gear of the Year!

We were thrilled to learn this morning that 50 Campfires - The Camping Authority - has given our Toccoa Daysack its Gear of the Year award!

You can read the full review here.

Jessie's in the Bernese Oberland

Paddling in Thun Switzerland may be even better than it was during the World’s in 2009! Two years ago, I watched with horror as a bulldozer dug up the riverbed in Thun right where the former amazing World’s Wave had been. I thought that that was the end of paddling life at Thun. However, low and behold, this summer reports started trickling across the Atlantic about how Thun had come back and was better than ever. Not seeing for myself, I thought, “this is nice, but how can it be, and it probably is not as good as it used to be!” Well, boy was I wrong – and thankfully so! For the last week, an amazing world-class wave has been there for all to surf. The local paddling posse who are all in some form of Jackson boat – which is great to see too – have been out everyday. With everyone floating in the eddy, we look like a pack of exploded M&Ms with all the bright colors and red faces from paddling so much!

The new Thun wave is in a different location than the World’s wave and its definitely a little bigger and more dynamic! The wave is also quite fast with a left shoulder a lot like club wave on the Nile, so you have the sensation of surfing a big fast and powerful wave. And you can try any move you like on it, which is great fun. This new wave has really made for a fantastic and unexpected Fall paddling treat here in the Berner Oberland. The surfers are pretty happy with the wave too, and it’s been great to see all kinds of people enjoying this spot. Another great thing about this wave is that catching it is a little tricky so it has the added benefit of getting you in awesome paddling shape just to play at the spot. If all that weren't enough, the weather has been very mild this Fall so the water is still a very pleasant temperature. Overall, it’s been some of the best Fall paddling I have done in years. Here’s to an unexpected surprise in Switzerland this Fall!

[Dr Jessie Stone is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014]

Meet our 2015 Champion!

Deena Hoagland of Island Dolphin Care

What is the Aquapac Outdoor Champions programme?

We'd all like to do something, however small, to make the world a better place. To that end we at Aquapac try our best to support people who devote their whole lives to doing just that.

Each year we pick an individual who we think deserves a lot more public recognition. Somebody - anywhere in the world - who has devoted their life to making the world a better place for others.

Previous champions:

So who is Deena Hoagland?

Deena founded Island Dolphin Care 17 years ago. It's a non-profit/charity that aims to help children with special needs, children at risk, and also wounded veterans. Through activities centered around dolphin-human therapy, those in need reclaim hope, shed stress, and find inspiration.

The dolphins themselves live in ocean water in a basin in the Key Largo canals.

Deena with her son Joe
Deena came across dolphin therapy in the treatment of her own critically ill child. She found the friendship of dolphins provided her with the answers to help her son Joe, which led her to create the Island Dolphin Care facility.

This spacious, multifunction centre provides full accessibility to unique activity spaces, a dolphin human therapy area, sensory garden and touch tank.

Deena gets a USD1500 cash award, plus at least USD1000-worth of Aquapac products which will be used to aid treatments in and around the pools.

Both therapists and dolphin trainers want Aquapac's waterproof cases so as to track and record information on iPads while in the water. And they are implementing a number of new test therapies which involve adding sound elements to the water experience which means the iPod/iPhone cases, together with Aquapac's 100%-waterproof earphones, will be really useful. They also want to be able to shoot video in the pool, and again Aquapac can offer all sorts of cases to help here.

Deena with her husband Pete
For more about Deena and Island Dolphin Care click here.

On Ebola and kayaking - A blog from Jessie in Uganda

If you are in contact with any media out there, it currently feels like we live in a really chaotic and crazy world! And it would be hard to conceive of why anyone would want to travel halfway around the world to kayak in a place where either you may get blown up by terrorists or get Ebola and on top of that your kayak may get lost in transit. There is good kayaking in many places and well why go through all that to paddle when you can be home, right? Well, I am sorry to say that once you have been to the Nile, it's really really hard to not fall in love with the river and want to paddle there all the time. The journey there is part of the adventure and once you arrive to warm, friendly Uganda that also has the right price point for just about all kayakers, it's hard not to stay for a while or keep coming back.

 Another thing you discover when you get to Uganda is that the media hype that you happened to hear up until your arrival was just that – hype – very good for selling newspapers and advertising space but not necessarily reality based. First off, getting Ebola in Uganda when there are no confirmed cases would be really hard to do, especially since the outbreak is as far from Uganda as London is from Uganda. Plus, there are no direct flights from Uganda to West Africa where the Ebola outbreak is. You have to fly through Europe to get there and overland would be next to impossible especially with stepped up border controls checking everyone coming into the country not to mention crossing the Congo which has no viable roads. Second, and probably the most compelling reason to visit the Nile and paddle it is that the Nile is under yet another threat of being dammed. This new proposed Isimba dam would be done in 3 years and flood all the great whitewater!

 The latest news on the dam is a little sketchy – a Chinese company that has been blacklisted by the World Bank – the Chinese Water and Electric Company – is supposed to be building this new Isimba dam. Locals and businesses that would be affected by the dam are fighting back and making their voices heard in the Ugandan parliament so any other voices in favor of saving the Nile should also make their wishes known at Save Adventure Tourism Uganda. It is definitely not too late and the effort to save this mighty river is far from over!! In the meantime, stop listening to the media and get yourself over to Uganda to paddle one of the world’s greatest rivers! It’s an experience you’ll never forget. The only things you really have to be careful of are getting Malaria – which is easily preventable – ask me any questions you like on the subject or anything related to paddling in Uganda - and travelling by public transportation – definitely hazardous to your health but manageable by hired car!

Finally, here is a link to the latest published news about the Isimba dam in Uganda:

Remember, “He who hesitates is lost!” So don’t wait until it’s too late and hope to see you in Uganda!

[Dr Jessie Stone is Aquapac Outdoor Champion 2014]

And the winner is...

So there you have it. The competition was fierce but we chose this caption by a close margin.

The lucky winner is Tom Mycock of Staffordshire, UK (shown below). He wins one of our new TrailProof Drybags. Many congratulations, Tom!

There will be another competition along shortly. Keep an eye on our Blog.