Transforming Lives with Adaptive Scuba Therapy (Aired December 17, 2023)

Dive Heart, a unique initiative founded 22 years ago, has been changing lives through the power of adaptive scuba and scuba therapy. This nonprofit organization, spearheaded by Rotarians Jim Elliott and Tina Marie Hernandez, focuses on empowering children, veterans, and others with disabilities. By offering them an opportunity to experience the weightlessness of underwater environments, Dive Heart helps improve their confidence, independence, and self-esteem.

The transformative effect of adaptive scuba diving is profound. For individuals who have spent much of their lives confined to wheelchairs or limited by their disabilities, the experience of standing upright underwater is nothing short of miraculous. Dive Heart doesn’t just offer a temporary escape; it facilitates a shift in perception, enabling participants to see themselves as divers, adventurers, capable of achieving more than they or others might have thought possible.

Beyond the individual benefits, Dive Heart is committed to advancing research and education in the field of adaptive scuba diving. Collaborating with university medical centers worldwide, the organization is exploring the therapeutic benefits of scuba diving, particularly in deep warm water pools. Their ambition is to build the world’s deepest warm water therapy pool in the Chicagoland area, a project estimated to cost between $130 to $150 million. This facility will not only serve as a therapeutic space but also as a center for research, training, and rehabilitation, inviting students, therapists, and professionals to learn and innovate in the realm of adaptive diving.

The initiative is rooted in a deep belief in the transformative power of diving. From aiding pain management and PTSD symptoms to providing a unique form of therapy for individuals with autism, the potential health benefits are vast. Dive Heart’s approach is inclusive, offering programs in pools for those who might not be ready or able to dive in open water. Importantly, these pool programs are offered at no charge, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to accessibility and empowerment.

Dive Heart’s vision extends beyond the individual, aiming to inspire communities and foster a sense of purpose among people of all abilities. By highlighting the stories of participants and volunteers, Dive Heart showcases the profound impact of seeing beyond disabilities to the possibilities that lie within each person. Their work is a testament to the power of community, innovation, and the belief that everyone deserves to experience the joy and freedom of diving into new challenges.

For those interested in supporting Dive Heart’s mission or learning more about their programs, visit Whether it’s through participating in a dive, volunteering, or contributing to their ambitious pool project, there are numerous ways to get involved and help make a difference in the lives of many.


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February 13, 2024 · Posted in Hudson Valley  

Santa’s Visits: Helping Local Food Pantries (Aired December 10, 2023)

In the spirit of giving and community service, Keith O’Hanlon, known for his striking resemblance to Santa Claus, has been making waves across local communities by offering his time as Santa to support food pantries and veterans. His journey into becoming Santa began in 2015 when he was asked to play Santa Claus for a veterans’ Christmas party organized by Angela Flesland. Despite initial hesitations, Keith felt a calling, a destiny to embrace the role, especially after his first interaction with a child at the event, which left a profound impact on him.

Keith’s commitment goes beyond just appearances; he requests donations of non-perishable food items or checks written to the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Food Pantry as his appearance fee. This initiative has seen him supporting not just veterans but also local food pantries that have been under increased strain since the COVID-19 pandemic, doubling their food distribution efforts to meet the growing need within the community.

Apart from his solo efforts, Keith has enlisted the help of friends who have volunteered to become Mrs. Claus and elves, further enriching the experience for children and adults alike. These volunteers, who also invest their own resources into their costumes, assist Keith in understanding the latest toys and wishes from children, ensuring every child’s request is met with a knowing nod from Santa.

Keith’s unique approach to playing Santa extends to his mode of transportation – a 1970 M35A2 military deuce and a half truck, affectionately named Lucy Deucy, which he uses to deliver the collected food donations. This, along with his Victorian and European-inspired Santa suit, sets him apart from the traditional Coca-Cola image of Santa, aligning more closely with the historical and cultural depictions of Saint Nicholas.

Beyond his Santa duties, Keith is a retired Marine, emphasizing the lifelong commitment and service ethos of the Marines. His work as Santa is an extension of his service, offering joy, hope, and assistance to those in need during the holiday season. Keith’s story is not just about playing a role; it’s about embodying the spirit of giving and community service, making him a true embodiment of Santa Claus.

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February 13, 2024 · Posted in Hudson Valley  

Delivering Hope: Rotary’s Medical Aid to Zambia (Aired December 3rd, 2023)

In a recent humanitarian effort, Rotarians in Zambia, assisted by various organizations, accomplished the remarkable feat of delivering 8.5 tons of medical equipment and supplies to Machili, Zambia. The focus of this substantial aid was primarily on improving maternal and dental health care in the region. This initiative was particularly crucial given Zambia’s high rates of dental issues and maternal mortality. The project, which was significantly funded through a global grant, cost around $350,000, although the initial budget was set at $49,000.

One of the key organizations involved in this project was Project Cure, known for its commitment to providing medical supplies to needy areas. Their contribution and continuous efforts can be supported through online donations.

Further details of the project were discussed by Rotarian Stephen Caine on Radio Rotary. He elaborated on the challenging journey of shipping the medical equipment to a refurbished health center in rural Zambia. The Bernhills-Baltimore Lake Rotary Club played a pivotal role in raising the necessary funds for this mission. Despite facing delays and the potential for scams, the equipment was successfully shipped in a 40-foot container from Savannah, Georgia, to Zambia. The project saw contributions from various individuals and organizations, including a notable donation of $5,000 from a 90-year-old man.

Stephen Caine, a retired military officer and active Rotarian, was instrumental in coordinating the delivery of medical supplies to Zambia. The Rotary Club, which meets at Boston Spa Town Hall on Monday nights, continues to be a beacon of service and support in various community and international projects.

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January 17, 2024 · Posted in Hudson Valley  

Rotary’s Humanitarian Mission in Ukraine (Aired November 26, 2023)

Radio Rotary recently featured an inspiring segment on Rotary’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. BJ Mickelson, a dedicated Rotarian, took center stage in discussing his remarkable contributions to aiding Ukrainian refugees. Initially, BJ successfully raised between $2,500 and $3,000, which he used to distribute essential supplies in Germany to those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

Demonstrating an unwavering commitment, BJ later ramped up his efforts by raising an impressive $28,000. He not only made informative presentations in the Hudson Valley about the situation but also personally traveled to Ukraine as part of the relief initiatives. This hands-on approach in the conflict zone included delivering critical medical supplies and securing housing for internally displaced persons, underscoring the dire needs of those affected by the conflict.

BJ spoke about the historic and culturally rich town of Lviv in Ukraine, which he highlighted for its significance. Beyond his immediate relief efforts, BJ plans to continue supporting Ukraine, particularly with a focus on helping children during Christmas. This year, his mission involves a unique approach – using his Santa Claus persona to raise funds.

The initiative aims to provide Ukrainian children with Ukrainian language Paddington Bear books during the holiday season. These books, priced at $15 each, are more than just gifts; they are symbols of hope and comfort to the young recipients. The proceeds from this initiative are dedicated to this cause, with BJ’s Rotary club, Highland, playing an active role. The effort is part of a broader mission encapsulated on the website, which serves as a platform for donations and spreading awareness.

This heartwarming story not only highlights the relentless spirit of Rotarians in bringing aid and solace but also sheds light on the wider impact of conflict on communities, especially children. As BJ continues his commendable work, he also harbors hopes for peace and the eventual return of Crimea to Ukraine.

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January 17, 2024 · Posted in Hudson Valley  

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