Adopted children Ru, Kai, and Tao got the surprise of a lifetime at a recent visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). Their mom, Denise Huot, took the trio to see Winter and Hope. Winter is the dolphin star of the movie Dolphin Tale. It wasn’t a regular aquarium visit though.

Ru, Kai, and Tao met their favorite stars from the movie. Cozi Zuehlsdorff (Hazel), Nathan Gamble (Sawyer), and Austin Highsmith (Phoebe) were there to greet them. All three kids are inspired by Winter’s story of perseverance through disability. Ru had heart surgery when he was a baby and Kai and Tao are hearing impaired.

“It’s just so special to see the impact this movie has had on so many people,” said Zuehlsdorff.” “We’ve really developed a family here, and every time we visit we add members to the family,” added Gamble.

The staff at CMA says Winter has a huge following of kids with disabilities. According to People, “The dolphin’s strongest devotees include children coping with autism or limb loss caused by disease and accidents. Wounded veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have also found inspiration from Winter.”

In 2005, Winter was rescued at 3 months old from entanglement in a crab trap off the coast of Florida. The CMA staff took excellent care of her, but a life-threatening infection claimed the dolphin’s tail. A silicone prosthetic tail was developed for her. Her journey of adaptation has inspired people all over the country.

Winter shares a tank with Hope, a dolphin whose tale is similar to her own. Five years and one day after Winter’s rescue, Hope was found in shallow water trying to nurse from her deceased mother. She was severely dehydrated. CMA provided round the clock care to nurse her back to health. Unfortunately, Hope was not a good candidate to be returned to the wild due to the age at which she was rescued. Hope was rescued in the Indian River Lagoon area, not far from where Winter was found.

A rare few get to enjoy a private visit with the pair, but you can see them anytime on their webcam. For more information, go to the Winter and Hope Facebook pages.