Thirteen-year-old Alex Landskroener had a wish to swim with dolphins. Thanks to Kids Wish Network and Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, the Michigan boy, who has a lifelong diagnosis of Chiari malformation, ventured to Key Largo with family to fulfill his dream.
On July 15, Alex and family made their first Keys visit where they stopped by DPMMR for a splash and wade session with senior trainer Hunter Kinney and dolphins Bob and Alfonz. Alex and his brother, Andrew, were fitted for a flotation device. From there, they went onto a platform that submerged them into the lagoon for a little dolphin time.
“These two dolphins love to make a big splash,” Kinney said.
The session with dolphins was an exhilarating one as Alex had the opportunity to see, touch and get a ride or two from Bob and Alfonz. The best part? Alex says it was “probably the rides.”
Alex was diagnosed in August 2015 with Chiari malformation, a structural defect of the skull that causes the bottom part of the brain to be forced outside the skull. He also had crainiocervical instability in which the junction of his neck does not support his skull. Recently, he was also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which affects his joints.
Despite the challenges, Alex is a fun, caring young boy who’s good at art and loves to draw. He also enjoys swimming, watching Netflix and learning about history.
“He likes Pokémon and Star Wars, and he loves video games,” says Andrea Sherwood, Alex’s mom. “He’s obsessed with dinosaurs and shark teeth. We’ve bought a few (shark teeth) since we’ve been down here.”
Alex’s wish was granted through the Kids Wish Network, a national charitable organization that grants once-in-a-lifetime wishes for children with life-threatening issues. The trip also included a stay at Islander Resort and activities at Robbie’s Marina.
“Alex is an incredibly brave child with a strong character and incredible personality,” said Nancy Cooper, DPMMR president and director of training.
“We knew the Keys would be the perfect destination for his wish,” said Kimberly Kreiner of Kids Wish Netowrk, “And what better thing to do in while in Florida, than to swim and interact with dolphins?”
Sherwood and Rich Landskroener, Alex’s father, said the experience was amazing. They also thanked Kids Wish Network and DPMMR for going out of their way for Alex.
“It’s much appreciated,” they said.