Betsy was lowered onto the sand, then made her own way down into the Gulf of Mexico while a crowd of beachgoers in bathing suits snapped pictures. Staff and volunteers of the CMA were on hand to guide her safely back home. She paused in the sand, taking a break, or perhaps posing for the “paparazzi”, then continued her journey. She hit the water, and slowly disappeared beneath the waves.
Helping the CMA release Betsy was Craig Hatkoff and his ten year old daughter, Isabella. Craig and Isabella, along with fourteen year-old Juliana Hatkoff, are co-authors of the soon to be released children’s book Winter’s Tail, the true story of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s star dolphin Winter, who taught herself how to swim again after losing her tail in a crab trap. Craig and Isabella, who live in Manhattan, were visiting Winter at the CMA, when they were told there was a surprise for them. The surprise was Betsy. Father and child were taken to Clearwater Beach where they helped hoist Betsy from the truck, and turn her around when she started heading the wrong way. “That’s a heavy turtle,” said Isabella, who expected a tiny sea turtle when told she would be helping with the release. “You’re hired!” joked David Yates, CEO of the CMA, after the release was successful.
“Nothing can ever feel quite as amazing. That was fantastic,” Isabella gushed when it was all over. “I don’t think that feeling has gone away yet.”
“Nor has that smile!” her dad added.
Winter’s Tail will hit shelves in October, as the next book in a series of true-life animal stories by Craig, Isabella and Juliana Hatkoff. For more information on Winter’s Tail, visit www.winterstail.com.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates marine life. Animals like Betsy who are able to survive in their native environment are returned to the wild upon full rehabilitation. Animals like Winter who are not able to survive in the wild become permanent residents of the aquarium and serve as ambassadors of their species. For more information on the CMA, go to www.cmaquarium.com