When Evelyn Felipez was 11 years old she got the opportunity to meet pop singer Demi Lovato. Evelyn, who has spinabifida, was able to live out her wish of meeting Lovato and seeing her perform live thanks to the Kids Wish Network. A story was written about Evelyn’s once in a life time experience in a local paper and Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) executive director Cindy Housner took note of the story and reached out to Evelyn and her family. Cindy asked if Evelyn had any interest in athletics and sure enough she did and before long she was signed up to participate in GLASA programs.
Evelyn has now been with GLASA for three years and has taken great interest in equestrian. Not too long ago she was practicing when an event coordinator from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was very impressed with her attitude and how poised she was. While observing Evelyn ride for a while the coordinator came to the conclusion that she would be a good candidate for the Dive Heart scuba diving program.
Dive Heart’s goal is to use scuba diving as a way to build confidence and independence in disabled athletes. Dive Heart was founded in 2001 and for the past 11 years they have been providing educational scuba diving and snorkeling programs and lessons that are open to people with disabilities of all ages. They hope that the scuba diving and snorkeling will provide their participants with both physical as well as mental therapeutic value.
These past few weeks Evelyn has been practicing open water diving as she prepares to go on a trip to Florida through one of Dive Heart’s programs. Evelyn, along with a handful of other kids chosen to participate, will be staying in Key West for five days as they will be practicing and improving their scuba diving skills.
Evelyn’s father, Jon, explained that none of this would have been possible if it were not for GLASA. “Cindy and GLASA have opened up many opportunities for Evelyn.” However, it was all Evelyn’s “can-do” attitude that led to this rare and special opportunity. Evelyn will be starting her freshman year at Lakes Community High School this fall and will be able to share her unique scuba diving experience with all of her new classmates. Along with participating in GLASA programs, Evelyn will also be playing violin in the school orchestra.