Immaculate Conception eighth grader Alicia Noemi Lopez had never seen the 2011 film “Dolphin Tale” about an injured dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail. But the story particularly resonated with her when she saw a screening of the movie along with fellow students Sept. 11.
“I liked the message of don’t give up even though you’re injured,” said Lopez, using crutches to help her get around while her foot heals from a broken joint. “I like how it connected to me and, since I like dolphins, I enjoyed the animals.” The film inspired by a true story centers on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin, Winter, who lost her tail after becoming entangled with a rope attached to a crab trap. The bottlenose dolphin was rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail by staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, in Clearwater, Florida.
Immaculate Conception was one of six archdiocesan elementary schools viewing the film last week in anticipation of its sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,” which opened Sept. 12. Students also saw a trailer of “2” and a short video of champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who has a cameo in the film, talking about how her faith helped her get through the trauma of losing her arm in a shark attack and coming to terms with her disability.
In the video clip shown to the students before the “Dolphin Tale” screening, Hamilton said that in the days after the shark attack in which she lost her left arm, she experienced inner peace that “couldn’t be from anything but God.” Explaining how she gave her heart to Jesus at age five, Hamilton declares in the video: “I cannot help but share that Jesus Christ is what really got me through and kept a smile on my face when some days were really rough and just always gave me a reason to be thankful.”
The Hamilton video clip as well as “Dolphin Tale 2” ministry and education resources were emailed to all 220 archdiocesan elementary schools Sept. 12 by archdiocesan superintendent of elementary schools Kevin Baxter for optional classroom use. “Dolphin Tale 2” highlights values of family unity, the spirit of friendship and hope, including inspiring children and adults with disabilities. “When we use movies to connect kids to faith, it has greater lasting value,” said Baxter.
“We haven’t done anything like this before,” said Mary Ann Murphy, principal of Immaculate Conception. “The students have never had a chance to have a school movie [during the day] like this.”
Other Catholic elementary schools in Los Angeles screening the first “Dolphin Tale” movie last week included Holy Spirit, St. Brendan, Our Mother of Good Counsel, Our Lady of the Rosary (Paramount) and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Ofer de Leon, Immaculate Conception eighth grader who had not seen “Dolphin Tale” before last week, told The Tidings that it was “inspiring and we can all learn from it.” He particularly liked the depiction of the scientist in the film who made Winter’s prosthetic tail, “because I want to be a doctor, and it made me think about how you can make things to change the world.”
When asked about welcoming disabled people in the community, de Leon declared: “I think you should treat them like anybody else because you can’t exclude people for what they can’t control.”