Young People with Disabilities Explore the Underwater World During Annual Days of Discovery
Jun 08, 2016
What’s the best day of the year for the aquarium’s dive team? For 15 years it’s been “The Zack Bunnell Day of Discovery” – a day that gives young people with disabilities the chance to experience the freedom and wonder of the ocean during a surface scuba experience.
“The Day of Discovery embodies the mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium – to inspire conservation of the ocean. With the support of the entire aquarium community this program continues to offer a unique opportunity for this most deserving and too often underserved audience.” Director of Dive Programs, George Z. Peterson.
In collaboration with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers this free program to young people ages 8 to 14 with varying disabilities and special needs. The participants put on modified scuba gear and, with the aid of certified dive staff, encounter sea creatures as they explore the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.
This year’s Days of Discovery are June 18, 19 and August 27.
The magical day is in honor of 10-year old Zach Bunnell, who fulfilled a year-long wish to participate in Underwater Explorers in 2004 despite fighting brain cancer that left him blind. Bunnell passed away a few months after fulfilling his dream, but his gentle and witty spirit inspired several aquarium staff to continue to offer this unique experience to other special needs children.
The aquarium developed the Underwater Explorers scuba program in 2002. It was warmly embraced by participants and was made a permanent summer program in 2003 to give children ages 8 to 13 an opportunity to have a similar scuba experience in the Great Tide Pool.
Read past blog stories about Days of Discovery
Read Monterey Herald’s 2012 article about the special day