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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Diveheart Texas: Adaptive program helps people with disabilities learn to scuba dive

Adaptive program helps people with disabilities learn to scuba dive

by Teresa Woodard, WFAA (ABC TV-8), Fort Worth, Texas

“You don’t know that you can’t do it until you try it and you find out that you can,” said a paralyzed veteran learning to dive again thanks to a new adaptive diving program in North Texas.

FORT WORTH, Texas – There was a steady downpour for several hours straight, but standing poolside at the Longhorn Activity Center in Fort Worth, it was clear — raindrops didn’t matter.

Neither did wheelchairs or different ways of thinking.

Whatever was happening above the surface was forgotten below it, because the underwater world is the great equalizer.

“You’re not attached to a chair,” said 58-year-old Laura Jeanne, a diver who is paralyzed from the chest down. “You can move without having wheels on your butt.”

The water is calming, welcoming and non-judgmental. And once Jeanne enters the place where opportunity replaces obstacles, she doesn’t dwell on the horseback riding accident she had nine years ago that changed her life forever.

Fellow diver Jacob Redford, 17, doesn’t dwell on the cognitive disorder that makes him different from his friends. “It feels like I’m in an environment that’s peaceful and I know what I can do,” Jacob said.

He was born with agenesis of the corpus callosum, a birth defect that left the middle section of his brain undeveloped. “So long as the person with a disability has the cognitive ability to understand never hold your breath, they don’t have a seizure disorder, and the doctor signs off on them, then we can take them under water,” said Dale Davis, a scuba instructor with Diveheart.

Diveheart is a worldwide non-profit. Davis and Kari-Ann Melendez expanded it to North Texas in 2018. The two navy veterans and former air traffic controllers love to dive and saw a need for adaptive diving options in the region.

Davis said potential divers are often surprised to learn adaptive diving exists. “I had one young man, 15 years old, who looked at his chair and looked at me like I was crazy,” he said.

Kari-Ann said, “Now they can feel confidence and have the self-esteem to get out there and try things that they didn’t know they could do, and I bet you they can do a great job at.”

Skilled divers accompany each new diver in the water, where Laura feels more like her old self – the one who, in her early 20s, broke down gender barriers as one of the first female Blackhawk pilots in the U.S. Army — the one who flew in Desert Storm.

The one who assumed her diving days were behind her, but through Diveheart has discovered that diving isn’t a part of who she used to be. It’s who she can be. “You don’t know that you can’t do it until you try it and you find out that you can,” Laura said. “Never say never. Life isn’t over. It’s just different.”

Becoming fearless inside the water and out.

Read original article on WFAA website.

Win 7 Nights Dive Trip For 2 – Garden Island Resort

Win 7 Nights Dive Trip For 2

Purchase 6 chances for $5 or purchase 20 chances for $15. Drawing will be held on May 6,2019. Winner does not have to be present to win.

Win 7 Nights Dive Trip For 2 – Mayan Princess Resort

Win 7 Nights Dive Trip For 2

Purchase 6 chances for $5 or purchase 20 chances for $15. Drawing will be held on May 6,2019. Winner does not have to be present to win.

Sarawak, Malaysia: Pengalaman menyelam skuba oleh pesakit patah tulang belakang (video)

Sarawak, Malaysia: Pengalaman menyelam skuba oleh pesakit patah tulang belakang (video)

Diveheart Malaysia

KUCHING 26 Ogos – Seorang belia yang mengalami patah tulang belakang sejak dua tahun lalu kelihatan gembira setelah menyertai sesi percubaan menyelam skuba sebagai hidroterapi di sini sebentar tadi.

Freddick yang difahamkan menjadi individu pertama bukan hanya di Sarawak malah Sabah, Brunei dan Kalimantan, Indonesia diperkenalkan dengan menyelam skuba khusus bagi orang kurang upaya (OKU) yang dianjurkan pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO), Diveheart yang ditaja Premier Marine & Scuba Centre.

Menurut Freddick Jilam, 26, dia berasa sedikit gementar ketika mahu mula memasuki kolam renang namun dengan tunjuk ajar diberikan mereka terlatih ianya berjalan lancar.

“Ketika di dalam air, pergerakan saya lebih ringan tidak berasa kaki berat.

“Saya berharap kalau dapat dan berpeluang mahu teruskan sesi skuba seperti ini lagi,” katanya ketika ditemui Utusan Malaysia selepas sesi percubaan menyelam skuba itu di sini hari ini.

Freddick sebelum ini difahamkan mengalami kemurungan dengan keadaannya yang mana hanya dapat berjalan perlahan sekitar 10 minit maksimum dan selebihnya menggunakan kerusi roda.

Sementara itu, pemilik Premier Marine & Scuba Centre merangkap Program Koordinator Diveheart Malaysia Timur, Ernest C. Teo berkata, pihaknya membawa dan memperkenalkan program itu bagi memberi peluang kepada OKU untuk mencuba skuba sebagai hidroterapi.

Jelasnya, melalui menyelam skuba mereka dapat memberikan semangat dan harapan baharu kepada pesakit berkenaan dengan suasana berbeza di dalam air disamping tiada tekanan kepada tubuh badan.

“Pesakit ini dapat bergerak lebih banyak contohnya seperti Freddick sendiri dapat membuat selaman sekitar 20 minit.

“Kita berharap program ini dapat diteruskan bagaimanapun ia memerlukan sukarelawan untuk membantu dan dana yang mana kos bagi satu sesi adalah sekitar RM300 seorang bagi menyewa peralatan skuba dan keperluan berkaitan,” ujarnya.

Sehubungan itu, Ernest menyeru kepada badan korporat atau individu yang berminat untuk menaja atau menjadi sukarelawan sesi menyelam skuba khusus kepada OKU yang memerlukan sebagai satu sumbangan dan tanggungjawab sosial korporat.

“Sebarang pertanyaan boleh menghubungi saya di talian 012-8892336,” katanya. – UTUSAN ONLINE

Watch video on Youtube.

Read original article on Utusan website.

Malaysia: Diveheart Borneo program in Kuching, Sarawak (video)

Malaysia: Diveheart Borneo program in Kuching, Sarawak (video)

Premier Marine and Scuba Centre

Diveheart Borneo program in Kuching Sarawak with DiveHeart Coordinator, Mr Ernest C Teo and Premier Marine Scuba Centre Kuching. The Dive Experience program was the 1st in Borneo Region involving Medical Professionals as DiveHeart Adaptive Dive Buddy from Kuching General Hospital. Imagine the possibilities.

Watch video on Youtube.

Borneo Post (Malaysia): Diveheart gives hope to spinal injury patient

Diveheart (Malaysia) gives hope to spinal injury patient

by Lim How Pim, Borneo Post (Malaysia)

KUCHING: Freddick Jilam, 26, lost mobility partially due to spinal injury resulting from a road accident about two years ago. He was bedridden for five months following the accident in 2016.

He misses the ability to be totally on his feet again. Though he has been wheelchair-bound after the five months, Freddick takes some small steps occasionally. His hope of being able to move again was relived yesterday with the help of Diveheart Malaysia programme coordinator for East Malaysia, Ernest Teo.

“I feel okay. I want to dive again,” said Freddick after a nearly half-hour dive in the swimming pool at Stampark, Taman BDC here.

Freddick is seen with his parents Jilam and Dohim.

He added he felt light during the dive and that he could feel that he can move freely again. He was accompanied by his parents Jilam Doyuh, 59, and Dohim Ase, 49, during the brief interview with reporters.

Speaking to the press following the dive, Teo said Freddick told him that he felt different in the water, adding: “He said he suddenly felt light.”

He said Diveheart Malaysia has prevailed for four years and counting while Diveheart East Malaysia is still a baby. He said the session yesterday was a tryout and if Freddick is up to it, the organisation can train him as a scuba diver.

“This has been done in Peninsular Malaysia with three individuals; one with a condition worse than Freddick’s. When a person can do more things, the mind feels much stronger. We plan to make it into a long-term programme,” he said.

Teo added that the programme can be expanded to cover other parts of East Malaysia as well as Brunei and Kalimantan to help the community with disabilities. In order to sustain the programme, he said Diveheart needs volunteers, who are also certified divers, and funding.

According to him, Diveheart does not receive direct donations but through proper channelling such as funding five sessions for a candidate with disabilities.

[More … see full article on Borneo Post Online website]



By Annemarie Mannion
Naperville Magazine (August 2018)

Bill Bogdan cannot remember a time when he wasn’t in a wheelchair. The Mokena resident suffered neuroblastoma of the spine (a form of cancer that occurs most often in infants and young children) when he was eight months old, which left him a paraplegic with limited movement in his legs. Today, at the age of 48, he escapes that reality only when he steps into the weightless environment of a pool, lake or ocean.

“It’s the only place I can go where I don’t need my wheelchair,” says Bogdan, who revels in the freedom of movement provided when he is scuba diving.

Bogdan is a board member of Downers Grove–based Diveheart, a nonprofit dedicated to building confidence, independence and self-esteem in the lives of children, adults and veterans with disabilities through scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.

Diveheart was founded in 2001 by Jim Elliott, who was motivated to find new challenges and experiences for his loved ones who were living with disabilities. His father was a disabled Vietnam War veteran and his oldest daughter Erin was born blind. After teaching his daughter to downhill ski, he thought scuba diving could potentially assist people with disabilities, both physical and cognitive, to have adventures and develop their can-do spirits.

“I thought if skiing can help people, I can only imagine how scuba diving would help,” he says.

People who struggle to move on land move more freely in the forgiving environment of the water where they can—sometimes for the first time—escape the confines of gravity.

“It’s the closest thing on earth to being in outer space. We call it inner space,” Elliott says.

Diveheart focuses on helping people take advantage of their assets, such as upper body strength or superior sight, to navigate in the water.

“We cater to their abilities, not their disabilities,” Elliott says.

The organization offers adaptive scuba experience programs for people with disabilities all over the world and has dedicated U.S. Diveheart teams in the Chicago area, Florida, Atlanta, Southern California, Dallas and Washington, D.C.  The organization also trains “buddies,” who accompany participants in the water.

“Dive buddies learn to improve their skills and gain empathy as well,” Elliott says. “We run them through scenarios where they are working with a blind person, a paraplegic, a quadriplegic or an amputee. We teach them situational awareness and to always keep their eye on the adaptive diver and respond to [his or her] needs immediately.”

At a recent training session at the DoubleTree Suites in Downers Grove, Bodgan watched his 14-year-old daughter Hannah learn about scuba diving in preparation for a vacation. The family is planning to participate in a scuba diving trip—one of four the nonprofit is sponsoring in 2018—to Cozumel, Mexico, later this year.

“I want to get her involved in scuba diving,” says Bogdan. “My passion for scuba diving is going to be turned into a family trip.”

Diveheart can help cover some of the costs for people with disabilities who participate in the trips, through grants or by helping them raise funds.

Hannah enjoyed her introduction to scuba diving.

“I liked floating on my back and looking up at the water above me,” she says.

At the same time, Naperville resident Kevin Kovach was in the pool, learning how to become a scuba diving buddy for his 18-year-old daughter Katrina.

“I’m learning the skills to dive with my daughter, who has special needs,” Kovach says.

Bogdan often encourages other people with disabilities to try scuba diving or any other activity that sparks their interest.

“I always encourage people to find a passion,” he says. “Scuba has opened the world to me. It’s given me the attitude that if I can scuba dive, I can do anything.”

Read original article on Naperville Magazine website

WREX-TV13: Diveheart Scuba Offers Experience to Students with Disabilities

WREX-TV13: Diveheart Scuba Offers Experience to Students with Disabilities

Rockford, Illinois

Diveheart comes to a pool at Boylan High School in Rockford, Illinois, to help students with disabilities.

Scuba diving can be a way to enjoy being in the water from a different perspective, but one organization is using it to give people with disabilities a fresh outlook on life.

Dive Heart hosted one of it’s Scuba Experience programs at Boylan high school for a select group of people from the stateline area.

The non profit works around the world helping people with a variety of disabilities to build self-esteem through scuba diving.

“We work with people with cerebal palsy and muscular dystrophy, a lot of people on the autism spectrum. If there’s no medical reason for them not to get in the water, we work with them,” said Dive Heart Executive Director Tinamarie Hernandez.

This is Dive Heart’s second trip to Rockford.

They put on an event last year after hearing the story of Amber Rangel who was disabled in a water ski accident four years ago.

“Through becoming a quadriplegic she has done all of these organizations and Dive Heart has really become a part of our family,” said Rangel’s sister Ariel Krueger.

Last year’s event was organized in Rangel’s backyard pool to make it convenient for people to come participate.

Sarah Jones was one of the divers at last year’s event.

Jones has Transverse Myelitis, an auto immune that attacks her spinal cord making her unable to walk.

She says she came back to Dive Heart because she feels free while underwater.

“I’m also able to walk a little bit in the water. I feel like a normal person so I really like it,” said Jones.

Jones says Dive Heart has given her not only an exciting experience but also a way to meet and connect with people in the community.

“It’s really kind of a beautiful thing just everyone working together and having fun and helping out,” said Jones.

The feelings Jones has are just one example of how Dive Heart tries to motivate people through their motto: “Imagine the Possibilities.”

“We want to encourage people to be more independent, be more self confident, to do something really cool that a lot of people are afraid to do but they can do it,” said Hernandez.

Dive Heart hopes to expand their programs to eventually have an office build here in Rockford to bring in more divers.

You can find out more about Dive Heart’s programs and how you can volunteer to be a part of them by going to

See full article and watch video on WREX-TV13 website