CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - Most 13-year-old girls would be thrilled to have an up-close encounter with a dolphin, but for Ellie Challis it was one of the best moments of her life.
She suffered an illness when she was a baby which forced her into the life of a quadruple amputee. With no hands or legs, she’s had struggles, but when she saw the movie “Dolphin Tale,” she was inspired to overcome her odds.
The movie is based on the true story of Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Winter the Dolphin, who loses her tail in the lines of a crab trap, but overcomes many obstacles. Ellie felt she and Winter faced some of the same struggles and on Wednesday, she got to meet Winter for the first time.
“I saw the film and then I really wanted to get into swimming,” Ellie explained.
After seeing “Dolphin Tale,” Ellie began working toward her goal to become a Paralympic athlete. She’s well on her way to that goal, but first she and her father, Paul traveled all the way from the United Kingdom to say “thank you” for the inspiration.
And it was an inspiring moment for the dolphin caretakers at CMA, too.
“As a mom, it makes me proud to have other parents get to see their kids’ dreams come true,” caretaker Camie Zodrow said.
Ellie’s dad told FOX 13 News he was proud of his daughter and happy she has a positive focus for her life.