Boy travels from England to swim with Winter the dolphin

2:49 PM, Sep 1, 2013   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- An 8-year-old boy who lost his legs got the chance to use his fins to swim with Winter the dolphin. 

8-year old Cieran Kelso loves the water like most kids, but he never imagined his love for swimming would bring him to Clearwater to swim with Winter the dolphin. 

Cieran shares a unique bond with Winter, Cieran also uses prosthetic flippers to swim.

Cieran, who's from England, contracted meningitis just when he was learning how to walk at 13-months old. His legs were amputated, along with his finger tips, in order to save his life. 

"He died numerous times and was resuscitated," said Gemma Burnett, Cieran's stepmother.

Cieran's father, Gary Kelso, came up with the design for the flippers when he realized there wasn't anything like it for children. He sketched the idea and had prototypes made to fit Cieran's legs just above the knee cap. 

When Cieran saw Dolphin Tale which is inspired by the true story of Winter the dolphin, it became his dream to swim with Winter. In a rare opportunity, The Clearwater Marine Aquarium granted Cieran's wish to get in the water to swim side by side with Winter. 

Cieran along with his younger sister Layla-Eve didn't know about the trip to the St. Pete Clearwater area until his parents surprised him as they boarded a plane in London. 

The 8-year old knew when he arrived at the aquarium, he was about to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

"Thinking it will be the best time of my life," said Cieran. "And I know it will."

After Gary helped put on his son's flippers and lowered him into the water, it was an instant bond as Winter swam over to the little boy and checked out his fins.

Cieran got a chance to swim laps with Winter as an aquarium trainer guided them. 

Cieran could barely put together words to describe the experience but said he'll never forget this moment. 

"The feeling was great to be swimming, just emotional to be swimming with a dolphin," said Cieran. "I love dolphins, but the best dolphin I've ever loved is Winter."

Cieran's parents began to cry as their little boy swam with the dolphin. "There's some pretty raw feelings going in to seeing Cieran swim with a dolphin that he adores," said Gary.

Cieran says when he grows up he plans to return to the Aquarium one day, because now his dream is to take care of Winter.

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