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2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Diveheart Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Health, Health Care, Human Services, Recreation & Sports, Sports

Mission: Diveheart helps build confidence and independence in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the sport of scuba diving. The DIVEHEART VISION: It is our hope to bring the disabled dive industry up to the level of the disabled ski industry by 2020. For example: fifty or more years ago if an individual in a wheelchair rolled up to a ski resort in Colorado and wanted to downhill ski, there were no opportunities. Today, many ski resorts and operators around the world cater to skiers with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to experience the excitement of Alpine skiing. We believe that as individuals with disabilities discover that scuba diving is an activity that they can easily participate in, the tide will rise and the growing demand will necessitate that dive retailers, manufacturers, instructors, operators and resorts recognize and meet the need.

Programs: Diveheart has programs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities.

Community Stories

22 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our 14 year old son Tristen, who has athetoid CP, first participated with Diveheart in October 2016 in Miami. His dad took him and when he got back he went on and on about how he couldn't believe he could do it! He thought the equipment was cool and he was so proud he could stay down so long!

He participated with Diveheart again in June 2017. While there, he was able to connect with other members of the community who invited him to other events he would be able to participate in around the community and talked with him without the interfering of his mom!

He now believes/knows he can do anything and is becoming more confident. We refer to his dives when he gets frustrated with his physical difficulties and remind him, "...but you can SCUBA..." which gets him more motivated to find a way through whatever challenge he is facing.

We are so grateful that Diveheart has made their program so accessible to Tristen and thankful for all those people who donate that may never see Tristen, and many others, enjoy the benefits of diving in, and out of the water!

Louis6

Client Served

Rating: 5

Diveheart does a lot to help people like myself with all types of disabitlies through scuba diving. Jim Elliot is a brilliant man with an amazing goal and dream. Him and his organization has touched many lives forever.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Diveheart organization is amazing! A bunch of great people volunteering to truly help people with disabilities. They have made a difference in my life for the better, and I look forward to diving with them any chance I can.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Being a person with a disability, and doing things that only abled bodied people can do. Diveheart has made a dream come true.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Have you ever been in a group of 40 people and started to get the feeling that they were all saints? Strangest feeling ever and precisely what I was feeling on the boat of my first scuba trip in July of this year.

I have a very strange degenerative peripheral neuropathy which appears as a C5 complete. I used to be a lot better and in the future I'll probably be a lot worse. It's the nature of the beast.

In April 2016, Michelle approached me about Diveheart. She made the sale and I began the paperwork process. After a couple of weeks, I was in.

All my logs are publicly available at: https://www.facebook.com/chrisuzal

When a full face mask was put on and I was submerged, I was completely hooked. They were holding me and I was getting to know them as much as they were getting to know me but there was something else: I was also getting to know me.

I started kicking. Probably not much thrust but there it was, the beginning. And maybe a return to a fight where I was forced out. Maybe scuba is where I should have always been but that old fight is the older than Diveheart by a few years so I didn't think much of it.

The road I am on is fine. While nothing happens the day before, I feel like I was born to scuba dive. I quickly learned Wilhelmina was the person who made this all work. She seems like a blur at 100 miles per hour above the surface but she is a guardian angel underwater. Every single volunteer I met through her was also, as far as I could tell, a saint.

This nonprofit… So many good people… How?… Why?… time itself should expose the bad apples. Right? Nope.

I kept hearing about this "Jim" guy. I saw him on YouTube. Learned the background story. Seen enough science fiction and real-life nonprofits to just take it with a grain of salt. When do I get into the water?

July was about to roll around and Willa tells me there is a slot open. I willed myself down there. Complex before, during and after. The story is way too big for this venue.

Suffice it to say, Jim was the first guy to greet me when I entered the hotel. He is as advertised. Good dude.

What you don't see in this review of the Diveheart Foundation is anything ax grindy about how the organization functions. This is because nothing to grind about. The only time end users like me run into the organizational side is in the beginning.

It's very simple: get your medical paperwork completed and you can start learning what it feels like to scuba dive. Stick around and you'll get the real thing on a dive trip in the ocean that pushes you around and probably doesn't even know you exist. You learn how to safely traverse this planet under the ocean and completely forget your nontrivial disabilities are a thing.

Put me in zero G and bother me tomorrow.


1 Susan505

Client Served

Rating: 5

Diveheart has helped me overcome my pain to achieve more than I thought my disability would allow. I dive with them regularly and have joined them on trips to Cozumel, Mexico & Utila, Honduras.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have now gone on two scuba trips with Diveheart and am doubly impressed with the professional, caring, and fun people involved with this organization. I am a C5 quadriplegic so my previously active lifestyle was cut short by an accident. Diveheart fills a void that many people with disabilities feel by enabling us to do something active and exciting. At the same time, we are kept extremely safe by Jim Elliott and his many well-trained volunteers. Plus, the zero gravity environment helps lessen my daily back pain for days. Diveheart gives my husband and I an activity that we can enjoy together! We have memories to last a lifetime!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is autistic. Dive Heart has helped him develop in ways that I could not have done myself. Thank You to all the fine Dive Heart volunteers for your loving care that you have shared to my family.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The people at Diveheart (staff and volunteers) are truly amazing! The work they do to assist folks with challenges is second to none. A wonderful organization with an outstanding mission. I'd give them 10 stars if I could.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Back in April I lost my right leg when I was ran over by a car while changing my tire. My father took me on a vacation to pompano beach Florida to see relatives and for me to dive again. Divehearts set me up with Nikole from force-e and Divehearts. We went on a few dives as it was the first time back in the water since the accident. Nikole is an exceptional person and very professional. I hope everyone that gets help from your organization has a person like Nikole. I was very comfortable once I was in the water and she was going at my speed, I didn't have to try and keep up with her. She took some awesome pictures and posted them for me then once I was home she sent me a video she made while we were diving as a surprise that I was unaware that she was making. I was to say thank you to you organization for all the help you give people by having volunteers that are willing to give the time and effort to help people with disabilities

Client Served

Rating: 5

When my daughter wanted to get her Open Water certification a local dive shop didn't feel comfortable training her because of her limb difference. - they referred us to Diveheart, an organization I had never heard of previously. The Diveheart team was amazing in how they worked with my daughter to achieve her OW certification. This gave her a sense of accomplishment in an area she had struggled and improved her self-esteem. I've observed their work on many occasions - the staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to their cause and care deeply about the people they assist through Diveheart.

2 Kimberly94

Client Served

Rating: 5

We found out about Diveheart through my dad who saw the WGN special. My son and I attended one of their picnics and my 13 year old was able to experiencing diving. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2yr. He has always loved swimming so to discover diving was simply amazing. He came out of the water with the biggest grin I have ever seen. if it wasn't for Diveheart I would still be searching for activities that my son could enjoy.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our 22 year old son Matthew has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. During the 2013-14 school year, Matthew attended the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education (ICRE) in Chicago. While at ICRE Matthew was introduced to Diveheart and scuba diving. He was apprehensive at first but decided to give it a try. With the patient help of Jim Elliott of Diveheart and Ron Rispoli of ICRE, Matthew was successful underwater in the pool at ICRE. We then learned that Ron Rispoli was planning an ICRE/Diveheart diving trip to Key Largo in July. We decided to sign the whole family up for the trip and my 20 year old son Jake and I also signed up to learn how to dive. Diveheart arranged several training sessions for all three of us as well as online training to become certified divers. Our family was now looking forward to an exciting vacation adventure and couldn't wait for July to get here. We ended up having our best vacation experience of all time. Our trip started off with a training dive off the beach at Pennekamp State Park. The next three days we spent on the boat with the Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo. The folks at Rainbow Reef went above and beyond in every way, getting four adults in wheelchairs on and off the boat and safely into and out of the water. The weather and diving was great all four days and we couldn't have asked for more (I give thanks and praise to God for that. I know he was with us on this trip). Because of Jim Elliott and Ron Rispoli, our son Matthew now has the confidence to do something we never even thought possible. We are now a scuba diving family, although we still have to get Mom Margaret under water. There are so many bad things in our world, but also more good things. We need to support people like Jim Elliot and groups like Diveheart. They are truly angels on earth.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I found out about about diveheart through the rehabilation Institute of Chicago. I have Cerebral Palsy but am always looking for activities that will challenge me. When I first met Diveheart, they were very professional, knowledgeable and fun to work with. I had such a blast with them!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our 11-year-old son Matthew has cerebral palsy and is very limited in the physical activities in which he can participate. The first time we went to a Diveheart event Matthew was pretty nervous since he had never scubaed before and wasn't sure what to expect. The volunteers were incredibly nice and they made Matthew feel comfortable immediately. In no time he was underwater and loving it! Gravity is his enemy but underwater he can be free to move around just like everybody else. We had done quite a bit of research on Diveheart before we went to the event and we had very high expectations. Those expectations weren't only met--they were exceeded.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Diveheart has served my son who has autism well over the years. The volunteers are all super kind and generous with their time. They have helped my him to recognize that he can accomplish something he has never tried before. I will not forget how it brought happy tears to my eyes when he did make a dive under the water in a local swimming pool. Awesome work, Diveheart! You have helped raise my son's self-esteem in a fun way.

Lisa Hartlage at Change of Scene

Client Served

Rating: 5

Diveheart has opened up a brand new world for my twin sons with Autism. Both boys are avid swimmers and are on a summer swim team, but Diveheart has shown them that moving slowly in the water allows you to see and experience so much more. My sons said that "breathing underwater is like being a fish and not having to come up for air". The Diveheart volunteers are caring, supportive and I felt completely at ease watching them in the water. Thank you to Jim and the whole Diveheart organization for offering "another way to share our beautiful planet".

Vera R.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to experience diving with DIVEHEART at the Wisconsin Women Veterans Conference held at Ft McCoy, WI this past weekend. As a 100% disabled combat Veteran DIVEHEART helped build my confidence that I CAN particpate in active sports. The most amazing part was being able to float on the bottom of the pool and experience TOTAL pain relief for a few moments in my life. I hope DIVEHEART can expand it's program and reach all disabled veterans across the country.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is John J2 Mryczko and I am a action sports enthusiast, designer, promoter, producer, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker living with a spinal cord injury. I have been involved in Action sports for almost all my life. i have tried and participated in many sports but never got a chance to try SCUBA untill DiveHeart

Client Served

Rating: 5

Everyone involved in Diveheart is wonderful. I feel comfortable in the water right away. I need help getting the tank on, and all the care I receive while in the water is terrific. My son,who is my diving buddy just got certified this summer, it was the highlight of his summer. The freedom he felt while diving was fantastic.