Life-Changing: Diveheart’s Sarah Repka

Life-Changing: Gain a whole new perspective of volunteering with Diveheart’s Sarah Repka

Hinsdale Magazine
May 2019


The “Diveheart ripple effect” is used to inspire people of all abilities to “imagine the possibilities” in their lives. Sarah is the exemplification of this effect. She humbly takes the unrealized human potential that exists in people with disabilities, and she helps create a paradigm shift in the lives of children, veterans and others with disabilities. Her touch inspires them to transform from Johnny or Jane in the wheelchair to Johnny or Jane the scuba-diver. This new identity builds new confidence, independence and self-esteem, which helps them take on new challenges and helps them focus on what they “can do,” instead of what they “can’t do.” If Diveheart could clone Sarah Repka, and spread her love and caring nature, it would surely make the world a better place.

In retrospect, I was drawn, because my daughters were becoming more autonomous, while preparing to leave home for college, and I needed to fill the void created by their growing independence.

Read the complete Hinsdale Magazine article (page 68)

To read more about Diveheart and Sarah Repka, please visit

From the Wheelchair to the Water: Ben Hetrick, RAYVETS

From the Wheelchair to the Water: Ben Hetrick, RAYVETS

Corporate Communications
February 2019

Ben Hetrick has always found freedom in the water. As little kid it was swimming with family. As a young man it was water sports with his buddies. After his accident, it was water therapy.

“Being suspended in the water relieves all pressure and allows my body to stretch out and not be confined or restricted,” said Hetrick, who is paralyzed from the waist down.

Hetrick, a Marine Corps veteran, recently joined Raytheon as an engineer based in McKinney. “When I heard of Diveheart and their outreach to the disabled community, I wanted to meet with and learn how to dive with their instructors.”

Diveheart, a charity that teaches people with physical and developmental challenges how to scuba dive, worked with RAYVETS last year to give lessons at the University of Central Florida. In 2018, they sought a Raytheon employee to participate. They found Hetrick. RAYVETS and RADA funded his travel from McKinney to St. Petersburg, Fla. for the event.

While scuba diving in December, Hetrick found a new kind of freedom in the water. “Being able to spend time underwater floating and swimming in the weightless environment without the restrictions of being in my wheelchair was such an amazing experience,” said Hetrick. “Scuba diving gave me a chance, if only for a few hours, to forget about the challenges and boundaries I am faced with in my everyday routines. “

It was not only a rewarding experience for Hetrick, but also for the Raytheon volunteers to see his passion and excitement throughout the event. “The collaboration and teamwork that comes naturally from our ‘can do’ Raytheon culture made it easy to plan and execute this adventure for Ben,” said John Snedeker, the RAYVETS Eastern Region Director of Communications.

ERG leaders, including RAYVETS Global President Brenda Boorda understand the broader impact of these events. “With a team of passionate people, there are no limits to what you can do,” she said. “Service opportunities like Diveheart, and similar events across the country, help us remember the purpose of our work at Raytheon.”

ABC 7 Chicago: Diveheart Helps People with Disabilities Gain Confidence

Chicago Proud: Diveheart Helps People with Disabilities Gain Confidence through Scuba Diving (video)

ABC 7 Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago Proud is an ongoing series of ABC 7 Eyewitness News reports and programming efforts spotlighting the remarkable people who make us proud of our hometown.

Diveheart is organization that uses scuba diving to help build confidence in people living with disabilities.

Utilizing certified adaptive dive buddies, Diveheart provides safe and inclusive activities for adaptive divers to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic world.

View article and video on ABC 7 Chicago website

Service Above Self: Diveheart’s Jackson Steigbigel & Connor Devine

Service Above Self: Diveheart’s Jackson Steigbigel & Connor Devine

Hinsdale Magazine
April 2019

Hinsdale Central’s Jackson Steigbigel and Connor Devine join forces with Diveheart to help children, veterans and disabled

Photo by Daniel Garcia (cropped)

“Service above self” can be rare in the world, but two young high-school students from Hinsdale are setting an example for their peers and the community every month when they volunteer to help children, veterans and others with disabilities experience the freedom of zero-gravity and scuba-therapy through the Downers Grove-based non-profit Diveheart.

Jackson and Connor always approach their volunteer work at Diveheart with a smile on their faces. Their kindness, consideration and empathy when helping Diveheart participants with disabilities is refreshing to observe. Their patience and workmanlike attitudes inspire volunteers of all ages who surround them at the Diveheart Scuba Experience programs.

“These young men, with their humility and earnest approach to service, give us great hope that the future of our community and the humanity that contributes to its success… is in good hands,” said Jim Elliott, founder and president of Diveheart.

My first dive was when I was ten [years old], in a pool on vacation. I was hooked. I loved the feeling and wanted to do it again. About two years later, I became PADI-certified and went diving a couple of times. At 15, I was extremely lucky to be get the opportunity to help out at Diveheart. At the time, I knew very little about the organization, but after my first time there, I knew that this was the perfect place for me. The people at Diveheart are incredible, their knowledge about scuba-diving is limitless, and their passion to help others enjoy the sport is inspiring. They have taughtme so many things; not just scuba-diving, but being able to do things that you thought you couldn’t. The thing that makes Diveheart special is, they focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. They have countless programs over the U.S. helping anyone they can. You also do not need to be a certified diver to volunteer at Diveheart. There are a number of opportunities that one can volunteer for, but if you are interested, you can become certified through Diveheart.

No; I was certified several years ago, and have been on two [diving] trips before, [in] Turks & Caicos and Grand Cayman with my family. My whole family is certified. I also did my certification dives [at] Haigh Quarry in Kankakee. My interest in Diveheart started a year ago, because I needed service hours at Nazareth Academy. It looked intriguing, because I like scuba-diving and thought it would be fun. Now I go every month with Jackson, just because I enjoy doing it and helping out others. It is really cool to see the smile on people’s faces when they get in the water.

To read more about Jackson Steigbigel and Connor Devine’s scuba diving story, please visit

Read the complete Hinsdale Magazine article (page 60)

Download a PDF file of this article

WBEZ 91.5 Chicago NPR: Disability Therapy Through Scuba Diving – Tinamarie Hernandez

Global Activism: Disability Therapy Through Scuba Diving – Interview with Diveheart’s Tinamarie Hernandez


The organization Diveheart believes in the therapeutic value of scuba diving for people with physical disabilities. Since 2002, they have offered the thrill of weightlessness to people across the U.S. and in Mexico, Israel, Australia, China and the Caribbean. Diveheart works with people with autism, reduced mobility and reduced vision or hearing. An underwater experience can open up physical and psychological possibilities for participants. Joining us to discuss the program is Diveheart’s executive director, Tinamarie Hernandez.

View article & listen on WBEZ site

NBC 5 Chicago: Diveheart Offers Scuba Therapy for Disabled Community

Diveheart Offers Scuba Therapy for Disabled Community (video)

NBC 5 Chicago News: Making A Difference

A non-profit in Downers Grove is making a difference. The organization is asking people to donate wetsuits in hopes to use them to take children, adults and veterans with disabilities scuba diving. NBC 5’s Anayeli Ruiz has the details.

View article and video on NBC 5 Chicago website

Wonder Woman: Diveheart’s Amber Rangel

Wonder Woman: Diveheart’s Amber Rangel

Hinsdale Magazine
March 2019

Did you know that March is actually the official birthday of Wonder Woman? According to the 1976 DC Comics Calendar, March 22 is Wonder Woman’s in-universe birthday. Wonder Woman’s first appearance was in December 1941’s All-Star Comics #8. We see many wonderful women every day, and Diveheart’s Amber Rangel’s story is one of courage and inner strength — a spirit to live life at the fullest, despite physical obstacles. This month, Diveheart goes “in-depth” with one of its success stories that inspires young and old having physical obstacles, but without limitations.

Amber found her passion for water-skiing when she was introduced to it at the age of eight. A decade of hard work later, at 19, she became a world-class barefoot skier, ranked 26th in the world among women. That year, while training for the Barefoot Water Ski national championship, an accident left Amber with a spinal-cord injury, changing the course of her life.

During intensive recovery and therapy, as a full-level quadriplegic, what once gave her such joy now terrified her; but she knew she had to get back in the water. After some searching, Amber decided to try scuba-diving. She started by getting diving instruction in the pool, and then found Diveheart, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities gain freedom through diving. Today, Amber is a certified adaptive scuba diver who dives around the world in locations such as Mexico, Honduras and Iceland. Working with Diveheart, her goal is to help introduce scuba therapy worldwide to others with disabilities.

Read the complete Hinsdale Magazine article (page 68)

Catholic Chicago Radio: Interview with Gabe Spataro & Jim Elliott

Catholic Chicago Radio: Interview with Gabe Spataro & Jim Elliott

Archdiocese of Chicago

Diveheart is a non-profit organization that uses scuba diving to help build confidence and self-esteem in children, adults and veterans with disabilities. Guests: Jim Elliott; Gabe Spataro.

CBS11 News: North Texas Group Takes People With Disabilities Diving

North Texas Group Takes 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 think 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)