Young People with Disabilities Become “Underwater Explorers” on Annual “Zach Bunnell Day of Discovery”

Jun 09, 2015

What:                                  

The Monterey Bay Aquarium will host over 30 young people ages 8 to 14 – with varying disabilities and special needs – from the Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo communities (Monterey, Capitola, Seaside, Pacific Grove, Marina, Carmel, Soledad, Salinas, San Jose and San Bruno) for a 90-minute SCUBA experience, sponsored by Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network, in the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.                         

When:                                 

Saturday, June 13. First program runs 10 – 11:30 a.m.; second program runs 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.; third program runs 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. **Media is welcome to drop in between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., unless other plans are made in advance.**

Where:               

Monterey Bay Aquarium (Please call Mika for escort when you arrive. Sorry, no on-site parking is available.)

Description:

For the 14th year in a row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium will give young people with disabilities an opportunity to experience the freedom of being in the ocean when the Aquarium hosts them for a 90-minute surface SCUBA experience through its Underwater Explorers program. This year’s program, “Partnering for Healthy Adventures,” is being held in collaboration with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network.

The participants put on modified SCUBA gear and, with the aid of the Aquarium’s certified dive staff, encounter sea creatures as they explore the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.

All participants are between 8 and 14 years old, and some are confined to wheelchairs. Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network are supporting this program which provides free access to Days of Discovery and all exhibits to the young participants and their families.

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.

This is an opportunity to meet and talk with these young people as they discover the freedom and possibilities of SCUBA diving in a safe, supervised setting. This event offers great opportunities to shoot images and footage.

Editors: Please contact Public Relations to arrange coverage.

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.