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Category: Arts and Entertainment

How can you turn Halloween into a fun-filled time for your children

halloween - article - positive impact magazine

My kids always look forward to Halloween, even though they don’t eat the candy (at least in front of me). They look forward to dressing up in costumes, being out with their friends, and staying up late on a school night. I, on the other hand, do not look forward to Halloween. I don’t like the focus on promoting fear of ugly-looking creatures and giving toxic items to children. I don’t call the candy “treats” because that gives children the wrong message. Think about it, calling something a “treat” encourages your children to look forward to receiving the “treat”. Do you really want to encourage your children to look forward to eating something that could be as harmful as cigarettes?

With our growing obesity epidemic, the increase in diabetes and strokes in children, and the scientific link between junk food and depression, decreased intellect, criminal behavior, dementia, and cancer, it is time mothers took a stand against the traditional Halloween junk food-fest.

The sad fact is that even normally well-behaved children can start acting crazy after consuming all the highly-sugared, chemicalized junk they get. And the disrupting behavior can last for as long as a month afterward. Yet, I’m not a person who believes in letting eating choices turn my home into a war zone. I believe in providing an education in healthful eating—and setting a good example! I keep unhealthful foods out of the house, and trust my kids to use their best judgment. Thankfully, we have figured out how to make Halloween a happy time for all of us, without joining the candy craze. Here are some tips that have worked for us.

1. Hand out inexpensive toys instead of candy. By setting this good example, perhaps a neighbor will pick up on the idea. Even if nobody follows your lead, you will feel good about your decision. Toys are perhaps a little more expensive than candy, but not much, and they definitely send a great message to both the kids and the parents.

My children help choose what they think is cool. In recent years, we have been giving out glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets. The best thing about these toys is that they make kids safer in the dark because cars can see them when they are walking in the road. Kids say, “Wow!” or “Cool!” when they see the glowing gifts, so I know they love them. Plus, my kids are proud to hand them out. Now that my kids are older, they always remind me when it’s time to place my order. Other toys that we have purchased include blow up balloon balls, glow-in-the-dark animals, and glow-in-the-dark balls.

2. Make your family’s favorite dinner on Halloween night, including their favorite desserts. There are great healthy fall menu ideas in the Member Center recipe guide. With full stomachs, your kids will be less tempted to eat the junk they receive. You also can try the Halloween recipe Quick and Creepy Chocolate Treats below and other recipes in the September 2006 Healthy Times Newsletter or have some delicious Dr. Fuhrman Date-Nut Bars and Pop’ems on hand.

3. When the children come home, if they are adamant about wanting to eat the candy, set a limit on how many candies they are allowed to eat. I suggest you allow them two pieces of candy, which they can pick out—and then discard the rest. In the past, we let our children pick one or two candies to eat, but in the more recent years they don’t even want any of it. They are too well informed now. Last Halloween, much to my surprise (I was brought up conventionally, so it’s amazing to watch Nutritarian children grow up) our children played with the candy. They opened the wrappers, and exclaimed how it didn’t look like food and then molded it.

4. Try to get your kids to choose not to eat the candy by making another option more tantalizing. For instance, give them money or a toy in exchange for their bag of candy.

5. Some people find it easiest to throw out all the candy after the children go to sleep. Little ones probably won’t even remember it once it’s gone, and getting rid of it eliminates temptation for the adults in the house. However, it is better to do this as a family and not secretively so the children understand the reason that it should be destroyed. It would be no different if the neighbors were being neighborly serving cigarettes or addictive drugs. Some socially accepted and popular customs are simply ignorant and dangerous. Dietary ignorance is the number one cause of death in America and everyone needs to know it.

6. Life is full of compromises—and this day will pass! I believe that with a little advance planning you can ensure that your children will have a fun time. Plus they will not be tempted to hide or sneak candy. I am certain you will be happier knowing that they will be eating a lot less candy this year than they did last year.


The Kindness Exchange

the kindness exchange - article - positive impact magazine

The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m launching a music project to bring some light into what is, for many, a very dark time of year.  I hope you can join in, share some ideas, and participate.  Here’s the story…



The Message


It all changed with a cosmic message from…The Simpsons?
Sitting there at the table, I almost choked on my overcooked pasta.

I had been pondering doing a holiday music project, and the animated show with cutting humor and questionable values had been the final encouragement to go make a difference.

“Didn’t see that coming” I muttered to myself.




Lights in the Darkness 

Some years ago, my good friend Barbara was dying of leukemia.   The eve of my 19th birthday found my brothers helping me to construct a small wooden frame of a star.  We painted it black, and wrapped Christmas lights around it.  Strapping it to the roof of mom’s tiny blue Toyota Tercel the next day, I opened birthday presents in the car as we drove out to her home.  As we set it up in her front yard, I saw her as she stood at her front door, too sick to visit anyone, a ghostly skeleton, tears running down her face in thanks – or maybe that was me crying.  The little star stood in the yard, shining out into the very real darkness that was an overcast noontime on that December day.  I’ll always treasure the visit I had with her during her brief remission several months later, and a few before she died. She told me how much the star had meant – those lights, shining.

Two years later, a few days after my grandfather had passed, I sat looking at the lights on the family Christmas tree, shining out with such hope in that bleak winter night.  And then just last year, I stared with a similar intensity at a small menorah the night of the Sandy Hook massacre.


Like small fragments of a lost sun, the lights kept on shining through the dark, promising a return to brighter times, and offering a life raft through the dark waters of the present.



The Kindness Exchange

 I’m working on an idea, and I’d love to hear your input.  Let’s make it rock!

The idea is simple, and akin to a “pay it forward” action.  You do something nice for someone.  You post it online, and, if possible, tag it with the hashtag #KindnessExchange.  For example:  “@DontJoshMe: Just paid for a senior citizen’s coffee. #KindnessExchange”

The recipient could get a small card explaining what just happened, encouraging them to do the same thing.  The actions can be as simple as opening a door, or as grand as creating a homemade present for someone.  Money isn’t a factor, as it’s often tight for many people (including myself) this time of year.  It’s the action that counts!


I’ll be collecting the posts on social media, writing them down on small slips of paper, and putting them on a special holiday tree that will stay lit through the season – preferably in my front yard.  It will be like a beacon in the darkness, and a gathering place for the kindness of the world.  We often think that our kind actions don’t matter, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  And now, they’ll be all in one place, shining through the night.  As the reports of the actions arrive from all corners of the globe, they’ll all go on the tree, gathering, gathering…so many lights in the darkness.


The Music

 So, what about the music?  I’ll be playing my guitar in hospitals, cancer centers, subways, nursing homes, schools, and any place that needs music during this project.  I’ll be telling folks about it, getting them on board, and bringing a bit of rock ‘n roll to brighten the days for everyone.  That will be one of the ways that I bring light with me.  I’ll also be encouraging other musicians to join me in concert for double the fun!


The Ideas
  So, this is a work in progress.  Want to see the tour come to your city?  Let me know!  Have a great idea to make it more effective?  Drop me an email!  Have a sponsorship partner suggestion?  I’ll call you!  Any ideas are most welcome and gratefully accepted, no matter how small.

The idea of using music as a force for good is very exciting to me, and I hope you can join in on this project.  And by the way – if, like me, holidays have been hard for you on occasion, I encourage you all the more to join in.  I think it’s like what Clarence taught us from It’s a Wonderful Life – sometimes the best ways to save ourselves is to save others.



Please, let’s talk!  The best way to reach me is josh@joshurban.com, or Tweet @dontjoshme

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!


In Closing

So, what was that cosmic message from The Simpsons?  Well, Moe tried to hang himself.  His buddies saved him.  He cleaned up his life a bit, eventually went back to his old ways, but smiled at the noose, saying “Not today, old friend.  The holidays are just around the corner.”

Let’s change that narrative.  Let’s get those lights shining. Let’s save some lives.  I’ll see you out there on the road.

Let’s rock!

– Josh



A Cold Night in 1936

a cold night - article -positive impact magazine

He walked up to me, shaking a bit but quite resolute  as he guided the walker past the speaker stand to where I had invited him by my DJ table.

I stood and listened intently to this elderly man as he told me his life story, interrupting him every two and a half minutes to change the track and announce the next song for the party I was hosting.

He told me how he left his home in Idaho when he was a young lad of 18.  He hadn’t seen his mother in a decade, and he was told she was in California.  Setting out in the bitter cold of a February, chilled extra by the Great Depression, he hopped in a boxcar, assuming the life of a hobo.

I had met this remarkable gentleman during a previous music engagement, and was impressed to learn that he had invented a key piece of technology that made not only the lunar mission feasible, but countless other inventions and devices possible.  (Chances are, if you look around the room, you’ll see traces of his ingenuity.)  It was his hat that drew me in.  I was sure there was a story under the brim of the WWII ship, and I wasn’t disappointed.

We stood and talked and talked….”They told me this trick in the hobo jungle – I got in a gravel car, and started a fire in a little ashpan.  But I fell asleep, and I woke up with an inch of snow on me as the train rolled along.  I was so cold I could barely move”

Through his stories of hard work, being promoted to busboy, painting smokestacks, grading roads in the CCC, packing fruit, serving in WWII,  learning science,  inventing new technology, and earning the right to “call the moon his parking lot”, the story that struck me most was this:

Aboard the train up in a Nevada mountain night, his hobo friend said to him “Hold on, I need to go check something.”  That’s the last time he ever saw his loyal friend who had looked out for him for so many miles.  He’s not sure what happened.  Suddenly the train stopped.  Police with flashlights appeared.  Remember, hobos weren’t looked kindly upon in those days, with rail police even going so far as to killing the unwanted passengers in various removed ways.

A light shone in his face as they asked him “what are you doing in the mail car?”

“Just taking a ride.”

“It’s illegal to travel on the mail car – that’s government property.”

They hauled him off to the station in that bitter winter’s night.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to California.  I’m an orphan – I haven’t seen my mother since I was 8.”

“Hold out your hands.  Now turn them over.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Your fingers are straight.  That means you’re a worker, not a gambler.”

A cop disappeared into the next room, returning with a hot mug of coffee and a ham sandwich.  They fed him, and put him back on the train.

Back in the present day, I listened to  his story as I worked the DJ gig.    “That ham sandwich…that was the nicest thing….”  he said, his eyes tearing up.

I try to imagine how the cop must have felt after they dropped him off.  I bet he was hungry, because it was probably his sandwich he gave away.  He probably felt the prickle of a blush for his leniency, anticipating heckling from the next shift, wondering why he had let some grimy kid back on railroad property, “no doubt off to rob and cause trouble”, he probably thought.  “Ah, Jones, you’re a moron” he might have said to himself, delivering a mental kick.

Little did he know that he’d helped get us to the moon, made power tools possible, and make a 96 year old man tear up in memory on a beautiful autumn day as people ate potato salad and drank fruit punch.

From a kind act by an anonymous, long dead police officer on a cold winter’s night in 1936 for a grimy faced hobo kid, the ripple still continues, changing the world enough to make both old and young men misty eyed.

Let’s keep it going.  Perhaps the world will be saved with a sandwich.  Perhaps…perhaps it already has been.

– Josh



SCAD presents the 17th annual Savannah Film Festival





The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) proudly presents the 17th Annual Savannah Film Festival from October 25 to November 1. The eight day festival is filled with cinematic creativity from both award-winning professionals and emerging student filmmakers. Each year more than 40,000 people attend the festival to take part in a variety of film competitions, special screenings, workshops, panels and lectures.

PASSES: Passes start at $75 to $750 per person and are on sale now. Individual tickets go on sale October 1st. For more information, contact filmfest@scad.edu or call (912) 525-5051.

One of the few festivals started by an arts university, the Savannah Film Festival runs the gamut of cinematic creativity by showcasing the very best in independent filmmaking. From feature-length films with compelling stories to two-minute shorts with innovative approaches, the festival promises to keep audiences engaged and hungry for more.

Screenings take place at the Trustees Theatre at 216 E. Broughton St., the Lucas Theatre for the Arts at 32 Abercorn St. and the SCAD Museum of Art Theatre at 601 Turner Blvd.

In addition to the competition films, the festival also screens award-winning studio releases ahead of their theatrical run. Before the evening gala screenings, the festival honors leaders in the film industry including directors, producers, actors, screenwriters, entertainment journalists and editors. Previous festival honorees include Alexander Payne, Jeremy Irons, Natalie Dormer, Abigail Breslin, John Goodman, Matt Dillon, Stan Lee, Diane Lane, Lily Tomlin, Oliver Stone, Ray Liotta, James Marsden, Aaron Eckhart, Geoffrey Fletcher, Ellen Barkin, Liam Neeson, Miles Teller, Sir Ian McKellen, Isabella Rossellini, Patricia Clarkson, Charlie Rose, the Redgraves, Jeremy Renner, Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Arthur Penn, Emmy Rossum, Michael Douglas, Milos Forman, Brett Ratner, John Sayles, Roger Ebert, Kathleen Turner, Norman Jewison, Sidney Lumet, Peter O’Toole, Debbie Reynolds, Malcolm McDowell and many others!

Please visit http://filmfest.scad.edu/ for more information. You can find them on Twitter at @savfilmfest and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/savannahfilmfest, https://www.facebook.com/savannahfilmfest

 Use hashtag #SAVFF if you are Tweeting!


Janis Ian & Tom Paxton at the Capitol Theatre



GRAMMY® Award-Winners
Janis Ian And Tom Paxton
Together At Last
At The Capitol Theatre On Monday, April 13 At 7:30 pm

Tickets Go On Sale Saturday, September 20 At 10 am

Two of America’s greatest songwriters, Janis Ian and Tom Paxton, will perform at the Capitol Theatre on
Monday, April 13 at 7:30 pm. Tickets go on sale Saturday, September 20 at 10 am at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket
Office. Performing together on the Capitol Theatre stage for the first time, Together At Last will present Janis Ian
and Tom Paxton singling all their best known songs, plus a lot more.

One of the great American songwriters of our day and a towering talent, Janis Ian penned such classics as
Jesse, Stars, At Seventeen (which earned her a GRAMMY® Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance) and so
many more. Her songs have been recorded by countless diverse artists. Ian’s art is not for the faint of heart. Her
first hit (Society’s Child, at age 14) ignited controversy. Janis has never been afraid of voicing the truth. Her art is
still fresh, powerful and passionate. In 2013 she won another GRAMMY®, for her spoken word album, Society’s

Always armed with his acoustic guitar, Tom Paxton emerged with his share of what were then called protest
songs and became a voice of his generation, addressing issues of injustice and inhumanity, laying bare the
absurdities of modern culture. But he also wrote songs about love and humor and celebrated the tenderest bonds
of family, friends and community. Many became oft-covered standards (including Bottle of Wine, Ramblin’ Boy
and The Last Thing On My Mind. In 2009, Tom received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 51st
GRAMMY® Awards.

Reserved tickets priced at $42 and $29 will be available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office located at 1111
McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater or by calling 727.791.7400. The Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office is open
Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm and one hour prior to show time. Patrons may also purchase
tickets at www.AtTheCap.com 24/7.


Chris Botti Returns to the Capitol Theatre

Chris Botti


GRAMMY® Award-Winner
Chris Botti
At The Capitol Theatre On Wednesday, April 15 At 7:30 pm
Tickets Go On Sale Saturday, September 20 At 10 am

GRAMMY® Award-winner Chris Botti returns to the Capitol Theatre for one night only on Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30 pm.  Tickets go on sale Saturday, September 20 at 10 am at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office.  This will be Botti’s first appearance at the Capitol Theatre since his sold-out date in January of this year and like that concert, tickets are expected to sell quickly.Since the release of his 2004 critically acclaimed CD When I Fall In Love, Chris Botti has become the largest-selling American instrumental artist.  His success has crossed over to audiences usually reserved for pop music and his ongoing association with PBS has led to four #1 jazz albums as well as multiple gold, platinum and GRAMMY® Awards.  Most recently, his latest albumImpressions won the GRAMMY® for Best Pop Instrumental Album at the 2013 GRAMMY® Awards.  Performing worldwide and selling more than four million albums, he has found a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre.Over the past three decades, Botti has recorded and performed with the best in music including Sting, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and even Frank Sinatra. Hitting the road for as many as 300 days per year, the trumpeter has also performed with many of the finest symphonies and at some of the world’s most prestigious venues from Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House and the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Italy.Impressions, Botti’s 2012 Columbia Records and GRAMMY® winning release, is the latest in a stellar parade of albums includingWhen I Fall In Love (2004), To Love Again: The Duets (2005), Italia (2007) and the CD/DVD Chris Botti in Boston (2009), that have firmly established him as a clarion voice in the American contemporary music scene. Playing with his uniquely expressive sound and soaring musical imagination, Botti is joined on the disc by featured artists Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler and David Foster in a warm, intimate celebration of melodic balladry.With Impressions and the albums that preceded it, Chris Botti has thoroughly established himself as one of the important, innovative figures of the contemporary music world.Reserved tickets priced at $93 and $73 will be available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office located at 1111 McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater or by calling 727.791.7400.  The Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm and one hour prior to show time. Patrons may also purchase tickets at www.AtTheCap.com 24/7. A very limited number of VIP packages are also available, which include a premium seat and a meet & greet opportunity.

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc., a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, manages and operates the Richard B. Baumgardner Center for the Performing Arts, the Capitol Theatre and other related site events such as Ruth Eckerd Hall On The Road and Friends of Music. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc.’s mission is to engage the community to master, experience, discover and explore quality performing arts.The Capitol Theatre, located in downtown Clearwater’s Cleveland District, was constructed in 1921 and is one of Florida’s oldest operating theaters. Through a partnership between the City of Clearwater and Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc., the Capitol Theatre is undergoing a $9 million renovation that will see the 92-year old venue go through an inspired reimagining, where the customer experience will be greatly enhanced. The 750-seat theater will host more than 150 events a year and will be the catalyst for downtown development presenting a much wider variety of events including pop, rock, jazz and classical concerts, musicals, comedy, movies and more.
Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc.
Ruth Eckerd Hall – Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts – Murray Studio Theater – REH on the Road – Capitol Theatre


Creative Soul Studio Review


My mother told me the tale of her wondrous caramel frappe from Creative Soul Studio. I hit Central to try this delectable delight. Failing to fight the heat, I was a little too excited as I entered Creative Soul. Though it was a needed respite from the heat, the excitement only grew more genuine as I took in the space. Creative Soul seemed to wrap its caffeinated arms around me in a warm embrace.

A very friendly brigade of learned artists turned master baristas staff Soul. As a customer of other, more mainstream coffee houses, I find Soul’s staff is genuinely interested in what I have to say and handles every customer’s order with care.
Creative Soul employs the sacred equation of coffee+food+art+friendliness= the best coffee house in all the land! Their positive relationship with art is evident in their eclectic décor, involvement in art week and their status as a gallery. Soul has a stream of regulars in place but they welcome the addition of others! I am a newcomer to Soul and am warmly welcomed, I imagine you will be as well.



I Love the Burg!



Free Saturdays @ Everything Dolce
Come and enjoy a beautiful Saturday morning at Everything Dolce with your four-legged friend! Free treats and water bowls are provided. 9-11am. Listen to the sounds of Chant the Trees from 8-11pm. Everything Dolce 937 Central Ave

Live Music @ The Hangar
Live Music from 8-11pm. Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge 540 1st St SE

Diversi-Tea: Writing Women Back Into History
BPW/St. Petersburg-Pinellas celebrates the anniversary of a woman’s right to vote with “Diversi-Tea: Writing Women Back Into History.” Registration and networking begin at 1pm “Diversi-Tea” is a “not-so-high-tea” that will feature a hat fashion show, light fare and a cash bar, and an exchange of ideas. Dress hats are encouraged! 2-4pm. Tickets $20 for BPW member, $25 for non-members. Histroic Manhattan Casino, 642 22nd St. S.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Sat & Sun)
This undeniable American classic of literature, stage, and film tells the harrowing story of one man’s struggle against his own oppression and that of those around him. McMurphy plans to serve out his sentence in a mental institution that he thinks will be a better alternative to prison. His plan doesn’t account for one Nurse Ratched who rules the hospital with an iron fist. The two lock horns in a battle that promises to end badly for one or both as every life McMurphy touches is transformed. Some are lost and others redeemed in this modern allegory about freedom, oppression, bravery, and the power of the individual to create change. freeFall’s immersive staging will place you in the center of this riveting story that WNYC Radio said, “transforms the audience into one wild cheering section.” Sat 8pm; Sun 2pm. Tickets. freefall Theatre 6099 Central Ave.

Mad Beach Band Reunion @ Palladium
Everybody’s favorite beach band returns for a special one-night concert at the Side Door. Featuring original members Pete Merrigan, Dave Williamson, Lenny Austin, Vinnie Seplesky, TC Carr and Tom Kennedy. Don’t miss this rare reunion show. Bring your dancing shoes! 8pm. Tickets $15 advance, $18 day of show. Palladium Theatre 253 5th Ave N.

Full Fledged Unit @ The Amsterdam
FULL FLEDGED UNIT plays an array of music from Abba to Zappa with a focus on Ska/Reggae/Punk/Country as well as originals. Sean Delong (Front-man/Guitar) is no mute between songs, he keeps a connection with the audience like no other, a true performer/entertainer! Fun for all ages! 9pm. No cover. The Amsterdam 1049 Central Ave.

Cisco Adler @ Jannus Live
cisco Adler along with On The Avenue and The Crazy Carls will light up Jannus Live Saturday night. Tickets $5. 8pm. Jannus Live 200 1st Ave N.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs North Carolina Railhawks 
Bring your #RowdiesFace!
The Rowdies look to ride the wave of their stunning performance against the Cosmos when they face the Railhawks. The game begins at 7:30pm but arrive early for the Rowdies Tailgate Party beginning at 6pm.  Al Lang Stadium 230 1st St SE.

4th Annual Liquid Desires Craft Beer Party (Sold Out)
The 4th annual Liquid Desires Craft Beer Party celebrates Florida breweries and other unique craft brews with a vibe mirroring Dalí’s fascination with double images, in celebration of the special exhibit, Marvels of Illusion. Celebrate your passion for craft beer among some of the most famous paintings in the world with samplings of a variety of craft beers and access to the brewers themselves, trendy local eateries, and dancing. 8pm. Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd.

Full brunch buffet in the Manhattan Casino and live Gospel Music, every Sunday! 11am-3pm. Sylvia’s 642 22nd St. S.

Tribal Seeds @ Jannus Live
Tribal Seeds takes over Jannus Live along with New Kingston and The Expanders. 6pm. Tickets $15 in advance, $18 day of show. Jannus Live 200 1st Ave N.

Sidedoor Comedy @ Palladium Theatre
The best Tampa Bay-based comedians treat the Burg to irreverent standup comedy each Sunday in August. See Ward Smith, Steve Lazlow and Bill Oshe. 7:30pm. Tickets $12 advance, $15 day of show. Palladium Theatre 253 5th Ave N.
You have to be 21 y/o or over to drink alcohol. Don’t drink and drive.
This note is made possible by our supporters. Please support them.
This Weekend at Muvico Sundial 19 + IMAX
Sin City – A Dame To Kill For
“The town’s most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more reviled inhabitants.” via Muvico

#instaburg share by Luis Gottardi

Remember to use hashtags:#instaBURG, #iLovetheBurg, #BURG to be featured on the email or on Facebook!


How One Dolphin Made a Difference in the Film Dolphin Tale

Dolphin making a difference

Embracing Winter

By Julie Starke
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

Clearwater, Florida celebrated in style recently as locals and celebrities alike turned out for the premiere of Dolphin Tale, the Warner Bros. family-style movie starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson. The true star of the flick is ‘Winter,’ a young bottlenose dolphin rescued from the Florida shores, who is playing herself in the movie and is a stand out in her first role for the big screen.

‘Winter,’ the star of Dolphin Tale, is completely at home in the pools at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida.

The story begins in December 2006 when the then three-month old was found mangled in a crab trap, her tail stuck and her breath labored. Unable to free herself, her first months of life found a dependence on human hands, one that would never really end but one she accepted as if this was the way it was always meant to be.

In an unlikely series of events, she is saved by a little known aquarium, taken to live in a converted water treatment plant, raised by a trainer with a complicated personal life, and taught to swim with a prosthetic tail; only to become a symbol of hope for the disabled, particularly children, all across the country.

Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) explains the specialized design of this particular prosthetic tail to Winter’s ‘family’ at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

While this story is filled with raw emotion and a cast of characters that are solidly celebratory, Winter brings so much more to the screen than meets the eye. She has become the hero of the journey and, along with her new found friends and family, she has brought Clearwater Marine Aquarium to the forefront of the world.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is not your average facility. It began its journey in 1972 when a group of dedicated volunteers decided to establish a permanent Marine Biology learning center in the Clearwater area. Their dream took shape when, in 1978, the City of Clearwater agreed to donate its abandoned water treatment facility to the newly formed non-profit, Clearwater Marine Science Center (CMSC).

These pioneering souls saw a perfect opportunity and were granted a permit to turn the large cylinders into 65,000-gallon holding tanks in which to rehabilitate injured animals of the sea. A dream was realized and, in 1981, CMSC opened its doors to the public with its first exhibit room.  By the 1990’s the vision had caught on and CMSC changed its name to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a well-loved community learning center and an engaged community participant.

The dream had been realized.

Little did they know, several decades later, this same facility would come to house the most famous Dolphin in the world. Little did they know that they would come to be the center of a Hollywood venture and the saving grace for those who see themselves as different.

Winter came to Clearwater Marine Aquarium and, along with her, she brought a big dose of ‘go with the flow.’ This little girl didn’t know that dolphins don’t drink from bottles, tails are needed to swim, and humans can hurt. No, Winter didn’t know any of those things but she didn’t need to know. She simply did what felt natural and used what she had to get where she needed to go.

So, Winter did what dolphins do. She swam, she ate, she played, and she loved.  As a result, Winter lived and, in the process of living, this one-of-a-kind dolphin showed others what it was like to embrace the life you are given and to find joy in each moment.

Facing the potential closure of the aquarium, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) takes a moment alone on his live aboard house boat to gain some sense of peace as he contemplates his options.

Disabled children from around the world began to look at Winter as a kindred spirit. They came from miles around to share in the acceptance they found when looking into her twinkling eyes.

A bond was formed, one that could transform the pain and suffering experienced in their own lives to one of acceptance and belief that life could be okay. In fact, life could be downright remarkable and, with a little help from a friend, life could be magical too.

With Winter weak and under nourished, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) helps Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) understand the bond between them and how necessary he is to Winter’s survival.

Yes, Winter did that for them and so much more.

She propelled a little known aquarium in the back streets of Clearwater into a major player in the non-profit world of rescue, rehabilitation and release. Turtles, otters, and fellow dolphins can find a home here while they heal from the wounds that life has brought them. Children can come for education and experience environmental excellence while bonding with a modern marvel that has no prejudice.

The doors have been open through Winter, both at the aquarium and in the hearts of the world. For it is one dolphin’s journey to share the lesson of non-resistance, to ride the wave and move forward regardless of the odds.

While this is the story of Winter, a dolphin tale that far surpasses all other dolphin tales, it is also a story of courage. Not only the courage of a little dolphin who came to defy the odds, but a story of a community who led with love and made a difference to so many, and of an aquarium who found that miracles do exist and yes, they even come in Winter.

How to get involved:
Clearwater Marine Aquarium has many ways that you can give back to your community and your environment.  CMA offers volunteer programs at an Adult, Diver or Junior level with opportunities to contribute to general operations such as animal care, guest services education and hospitality.  There is even a Sea Turtle Nesting Summer Volunteer Program which allow volunteers to monitor turtle nests on Pinellas County Beaches.   Structured internships are also available to current full and part time students.  You may also support the mission by becoming a CMA member, adopting a resident animal, making a donation or even following CMA on Facebook.  For more information on any of these opportunities please follow the CMA link at www.seewinter.com.