CBS11 News: North Texas Group Take People With Disabilities Diving

North Texas Group Take People With Disabilities Diving (video)

CBS 11 News

Living with a disability can often mean being told you can’t do certain things but one North Texas group wants the disabled to know there one thing they can do.

View article and video on CBS11 website

Diving In: Diveheart’s Tina Hernandez talks about giving back

Diving In: Diveheart’s Tina Hernandez talks about giving back

by Janis Von Kaenel
Hinsdale Magazine, February 2019

Diveheart executive director Tinamarie Hernandez talks about giving back

She describes herself as the person you don’t him of when great things happen, but to others, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tinamarie Hernandez, executive director of Diveheart and full-time consultant for Accenture, does so much more than she realizes, and is someone to be admired. Hernandez said she’s “never the fireman rescuing the baby from the burning house, but the person who made sure he head his equipment at the ready and the training he needed to get the job done.” That statement in itself is one modest cape-wearing superhero.

Growing up in the western suburbs, Hernandez graduated from Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, and then proceeded to the University of Denver for graduate school. She acquired a job at Accenture in 1997 as a consultant which enabled her love of learning and travel. Hernandez has always been someone to keep herself busy with second jobs, photography, diving, quilting and volunteer work, immersing herself as a Sunday school teacher, being active in her children’s PTA and even the Special Olympics.

She got involved as a volunteer at Diveheart, an organization that builds confidence, independence and self-esteem in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through scuba-diving, scuba-therapy and related activities, in 2011 and jumped in with both feed, developing into her current role as executive director.

“At the time I started volunteering and then working for Diveheart, I was at a point in my professional life where I was questioning my value and the skills I had developed,” Hernandez said. “As it does for so many people, Diveheart has given me a purpose, and a way to share my skills and passions to help people.”

It’s not just a job for Hernandez, but a whole other family of people to learn from and enjoy.

“I’ve learned a lot from [volunteering] at Diveheart, and I try and bring what I’ve learned into my life,” she said. “Our adaptive divers have taught me appreciation of the healthy body and mind that I enjoy today and which may not be with me tomorrow.”

The donors and volunteers have given Hernandez numerous moments and gratitude for their generosity of time, talent and spirit.

“It’s easier for me to live in the moment, appreciate what is going on around me and not over worry about tomorrow,” she said.

Read the full Hinsdale Magazine article (page 46)

Equal Footing – Bill Bogden is changing disabled people’s lives


Bill Bogden is changing disabled people’s lives, one scuba dive at a time

by Kerrie Kennedy
Hinsdale Magazine

Bill Bogden is on a mission. He wants to show disabled people how scuba-diving can change their lives.

Bogden, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma of the spine at eight months old, is an incomplete paraplegic who has been in a wheelchair his entire life. He is also an avid scuba- diver who serves on the Board of Directors of Diveheart, a Downers Grove-based organization that helps build confidence, independence and self-esteem in the lives of children, adults and veterans with disabilities through scuba-diving, scuba therapy and related activities.

Bogden knows first-hand what the sport can do for someone who’s disabled.

“Scuba-diving is the only place I can go in the world where I don’t need to take my wheelchair,” he said. “If you’re disabled, you get this sense of freedom and weightlessness that’s truly life-changing.”

But it’s the sense of accomplishment that this sport can bring to those dealing with a disability—whether physical, developmental, emotional, visual, etc.—that is its real gift. According to, scuba-diving “instills a ‘can- do’ spirit in participants, inspiring them to take on challenges that they may not have considered before. Using zero gravity and the adventure paradigm, we help participants believe that if they can scuba dive, they can do anything.”

Bogden, who serves as the disability liaison for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and chairs the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, met with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, last year, and convinced her to get in the water and try scuba-diving.

“She dove before she was injured, but she didn’t even know it was a possibility for her,” Bogden said.

An Iraq War veteran, Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, and lost both of her legs and some mobility in her right arm after suffering severe combat wounds. She was the first female double amputee from the war.

It took a while, but Bogden finally convinced Duckworth to try it out.

“I brought her to a pool in Orland Park, and she was amazed,” he said.

Still, he didn’t fully understand the impact it had on her until last April, when he was in Washington, D.C. for the Disability Policy Summit, and decided to stop by Duckworth’s office to say hello. There on her wall was a portrait of the senator posing with members from Diveheart, memorializing a proud moment for all visitors to see.

“As a person with a disability, being able to share that experience with others is truly inspiring,” Bogden said. “I dive with military veterans who have lost limbs, and often work with people whose disabilities are more severe than mine, sometimes complete quadriplegics with paralysis of both arms and legs. Being able to accomplish this makes them realize they can apply it to other things in their lives. Life doesn’t have to stop just because you have a disability.”

Through Diveheart, Bogden also works with able-bodied individuals who want to learn how to teach someone with a disability to scuba-dive.

“Through our dive instructor program, they learn the skills people with disabilities need to become ‘adaptive divers,’” he said, noting that he swims with web gloves since he doesn’t have the use of his feet.
Bogden also helps plan three trips a year to Cozumel with Diveheart, where the currents there help make it easier for people with disabilities to move around. On a recent trip, Bogden got the chance to scuba-dive with his 15-year-old daughter, who is able-bodied.

“As a person with a disability and a father, it was incredible to be able to share that experience with her,” he said. “We try to make these trips as inclusive as possible, so family and friends can experience this together.”
Underwater, Bogden said, is a place where everyone is equal.

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Naperville (Illinois) NCTV17: Diveheart Provides Safe Activities for Adaptive Divers

Naperville (Illinois) NCTV17: Diveheart Provides Safe Activities for Adaptive Divers to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic world (video)

The purpose of Diveheart is to provide and support educational scuba diving programs that are open to any child, adult or veteran with a disability, with the hope of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic value to that person.

Utilizing certified adaptive dive buddies, Diveheart provides safe and inclusive activities for adaptive divers to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic world. The forgiving, weightless wonder of the water column provides the perfect gravity-free environment for those who might otherwise struggle on land. Underwater, we’re all equal.

Diveheart focuses on abilities not disabilities to instill the can do spirit. The goal is to inspire participants to take on challenges that before might have seemed impossible. Using zero gravity and the adventure paradigm, they help participants believe that if they can scuba dive they can do anything.

Programming is available to individuals who have a variety of disabilities, including physical and developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more. Diveheart seeks to help its participants “Imagine the Possibilities” in their lives.

View article and video on NCTV17 website

Diving In – Organization Offers Free Scuba Lessons for People with Disabilities

Diving In – Organization Offers Free Scuba Lessons for People with Disabilities

by Katrina J.E. Milton
The MidWeek (DeKalb, Illinois)

SYCAMORE – Barb Castritsis of Sycamore was learning to become a certified scuba diver, but had to stop when she learned she was pregnant with her son Michael.

Michael, who has Down syndrome and is now 18, loves to swim, so his mother registered him for the free Explore Scuba program Nov. 10 at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA rec pool.

“He loves the water, and it was a great opportunity for him to learn how to scuba dive,” Barb Castritsis said. “I’m so excited for him, it’s great watching him swim and dive. It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. I never thought this was something he could do. But now it is a possibility, it’s something we could all do as a family.”

Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association, Adventure Works of DeKalb County and the Kishwaukee Family YMCA collaborated with Diveheart to offer the Explore Scuba program. The four participants spent about an hour in the water.

Diveheart, a nonprofit organization based in Downers Grove, provides educational scuba diving programs open to any child, adult or veteran with a disability. The program’s goals are to improve physical, emotional, cognitive and sensory skills, as well as teach new skills and overcome challenges.

Tinamarie Hernandez, Diveheart’s executive director, described the event as “an educational program, making them feel like part of a team and building their confidence.”

“We call them adaptive divers because we adapt diving to them,” Hernandez said. “They learn about the equipment, they put on the equipment and they use the equipment underwater. It’s important to get them comfortable and feel safe while in the water.

Ryan Bromberek, adventure program director at Adventure Works and past Diveheart intern, helped organize and bring the free scuba diving program to DeKalb County.

“I love seeing the positivity that comes out of diving,” Bromberek said. “I just want to see that happen for as many people as possible.”

KSRA Executive Director Dawn Schaefer said she was excited to see the divers “take to the water like fish.”

“It’s so great, seeing them jump in the water and swim all over,” she said. “Some were nervous and shy at first, but now they’re underwater with their gear on. Scuba diving is a bucket list item for so many people. It’s amazing that we can offer a program like this. Now they can all say they did it, they have scuba dived.”

The scuba diving program was the second at the Sycamore Y. Brian Bicker, senior aquatics director at the Y, said he hopes to offer the program multiple times in the future, possibly making it a quarterly event.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to engage youth and give kids an opportunity they never had or have the chance to experience,” Bickner said. “Their faces light up, you can tell they’re having a lot of fun. It’s an experience for them to enjoy and remember for a lifetime.”

Before leaving, Michael Castritsis thanked the Diveheart instructors and they asked if he enjoyed learning how to scuba dive.

“Scuba diving is my favorite thing to do,” he said. “I want to do it again. I can’t wait.”

Read full article on The Midweek website

Nonprofits, businesses create beneficial collaborations to better communities

Nonprofits, businesses create beneficial collaborations to better communities

by Jim Elliott
Daily Herald (Chicago)

The collaboration between for profit businesses and organizations in the nonprofit world is part art and part science. In today’s climate of corporate citizenship and community engagement it is challenging for businesses to find the right cause or organization that can be a potential partner.

With my nonprofit, Downers Grove-based Diveheart, I discovered the perfect partner with Private Vista. Diveheart is a volunteer driven nonprofit organization that helps children, veterans and others with disabilities through a cutting edge therapy in zero gravity called “scuba therapy.” Private Vista is a financial consulting and money management firm with offices in Oak Brook and Chicago.

In development of partnership, I found the firm to be a good cultural and strategic fit and a natural extension for networking and fostering friendships.

Searching for that right partner may come through casual meetings at events or through organizations that help business owners. The timing was perfect when I made my connection with Private Vista. This happened through a Vistage CEO peer group meeting where I met with Bob Westrich, one of the firm’s partners.

After a daylong discussion about corporate culture versus strategy and goals at a Vistage meeting, we started brainstorming about possible opportunities in which the two organizations might be able to collaborate on a mutually beneficial project to benefit the community.

When coming together, both nonprofits and businesses must visualize how they can both better the community at large as well as clientele to achieve a win-win situation for everyone involved. For example, Diveheart helps facilitate cutting edge research with university medical centers around the country, and with the help of Midwestern University researchers in Downers Grove, they discovered that “scuba therapy” is very effective as a therapy for individuals with autism.

My proposal to the firm was simple. If many people have been touched in some way someone with autism, then there is a good chance that some of the firm’s clients, staff and families have that experience as well.

In the proposal, through Diveheart I offered free scuba experience pool programs to the firm’s network of clients, staff and their families who are touched by autism. With this program, the firm is reaching out to the community in a unique way that adds value to its existing relationships.

In reciprocal fashion, the firm would also extend our scuba therapy opportunity to friends and acquaintances of their clients and staff. By going beyond their immediate sphere of influence, this firm has a chance to reach new potential clients.
Through my connection with the firm, the tangible benefits of a nonprofit and a business collaboration are these:

• When a nonprofit and a business work together, there are opportunities to benefit different target audiences. When a nonprofit presents a free chance for the business’ clientele to try a program, that business adds value to current relationships while reaching out to new prospects.

• By introducing new audiences to an educational and beneficial program, the nonprofit may receive new participants and potential donors to its mission and vision. Some of these participants can reach others by sharing their positive experiences.

• Another way to reach to people is through traditional and social media outlets. Those outlets that publish or post “feel good” stories about the nonprofit and business partnership will build instant exposure and goodwill within the community. Both the nonprofit and business can use their own social media channels to post their efforts as well.

Jim Elliott is the founder and president of the Downers Grove-based nonprofit Diveheart.

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No Arms, No Legs, No Worries

No Arms, No Legs, No Worries


One might not think that someone with no arms and no legs could swim, much less scuba dive, but with the help of one non-profit organization based in the Chicagoland area, children, veterans and people of all abilities around the world can benefit from zero gravity and scuba therapy.

The Downers Grove-based Diveheart Foundation has been serving individuals with everything from spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries to those on the autism spectrum and with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since 2001, this 501 C3, volunteer-driven charity has done everything from helping to facilitate cutting-edge scuba therapy research with university medical centers around the country to launching a leading international adaptive scuba training program for scuba instructors, dive buddies and adaptive divers (Diveheart refers to people with disabilities as adaptive divers, not handicapped or disabled divers).

“It’s not about scuba diving,” according to Tinamarie Hernandez, Diveheart Executive Director.

“Diveheart’s ultimate goal is to take the unrealized human potential that exists with individuals with disabilities and create a paradigm shift in their lives,” she says.

“We take Chris in the wheelchair and help him or her become Chris the scuba diver. Now Chris is no longer defined by his or her disability,” she adds.

“Diveheart then helps direct them to activities like coral reef restoration, marine biology and oceanography, giving them focus, purpose and helping them to feel valued while they are learning to become good stewards of the environment.”

Diveheart’s free scuba experience programs reach from coast to coast in the U.S. and are replicated by Diveheart teams as far away as Malaysia.

Researchers from around the country have found that the benefits of scuba therapy and zero gravity underwater range from relief of symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain to increased focus and a sense of well-being in those with developmental disabilities.

Researchers have also discovered that there are big benefits in going deep because the body produces an extra output of serotonin once divers reach 66 feet underwater. However, those with developmental and physical disabilities can benefit from the very first pool session.

Diveheart’s ultimate goal is to secure funding to build a deep warm-water research and training facility so that the benefits of scuba therapy can be replicated in a safe, confined, warm-water environment.

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Team Up – Studying Scuba Diving Effects on Autusm Disorders

Team Up

A Unique Partnership to Study the Effects of Scuba Diving on People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

by Mike Ellis
Hinsdale Magazine

Many partnerships between people from different organizations work as or more seamlessly than intra-organizational relationships.

In October, we reviewed the medical research of Dr. Milan Mrksich, a Hinsdale resident and professor at Northwestern University, and observed how naturally his group’s work aligns with and furthers the objectives of pharmaceutical companies in developing drugs.

Downer’s Grove-based non-profit organization Diveheart, which extends deep-sea scuba-diving opportunities to individuals with disabilities in the Chicagoland area, has established a similar partnership with Mark Kovic, associate professor in the college of health sciences at Midwestern University.

Like Mrkisch, Kovic’s work centers on research, and in his specialty area of occupational therapy, Diveheart has furnished ample materials for test subjects.

Read full online article (article is on page 66)