CLEARWATER, Fla. — UPDATE: Winter the Dolphin, whose story inspired millions, died Thursday at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Learn more here.
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Winter the Dolphin, best known for her role in the Dolphin Tale movie franchise, has become a worldwide inspiration.
Winter's tail came off when she was young after being caught in a crab trap line. Without a tail, Winter has inspired individuals with disabilities to overcome obstacles.
Grace Savage is a 15-year-old girl from Oregon. In 2019, her wish was to go to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to meet Winter. That wish came true; and ever since that visit, Grace's mother Katie said she relives it over and over.
Grace has a special connection with Winter. The man who rescued Winter is Grace's great uncle. That connection was discovered after Grace read the books about Winter and to Grace's mother, that was a sign the bond is real.
Grace has a chromosomal syndrome called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. According to Sanford Children's Health, it's a genetic disorder where a tiny piece of chromosome 22 is missing. That leaves a child like Grace with health issues. Children with the syndrome can experience a range of complications like heart defects.
Katie Savage, Grace's mom, said each day they don't know what Grace's heath holds.
"She has so many things going against her but she continues to fight and conquer and overcome. That was something she always had in common with Winter, the overcoming of the medical challenge," Katie Savage, Grace's mother said.
Grace calls Winter her hero.
"When she goes through those hard times, which is often, this girl, it’s just on obstacle after another, but when she goes through these things, I know she always thinks of these things, 'you know Winter never gave up! I’m not going to give up,'" Katie stated.
Now knowing Winter is sick, Grace believes Winter can fight through it. "We broke the news to her that Winter was not feeling well and she said, 'well mama, she has overcome so much before. I know she can do it,'" Katie recalled.
Katie said her family doesn't know what tomorrow holds. Right now, the same is true for Winter.
"We have a lot of faith still that she can fight this and be strong," Katie stated.
She explained that since their last trip to visit Winter with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Winter has shown she is a fighter.
"If you know anything about Winter, you can just think of her and what she’s been through and she keeps fighting and fighting and fighting and that happiness she still has," Katie said.