Clearwater Marine Aquarium sends gift boxes to patients with medical conditions

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is sending gift boxes to children with medical conditions.

The aquarium plans to send them to children across the eastern United States.

Lakota Lockhart lives in Plant City. He is the first child to receive a package filled with gifts.

The box includes airfare for a child and two guardians to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, a 2-night stay at Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club and admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

“It’s awesome. We’re very blessed even though we do have a lot of medical issues that we have to deal with and a lot of planning we have to do…we still have the ability to get out and be able to go places with planning,” said Krystal Lockhart.

Krystal Lockhart said her son, Lakota, was not crying or breathing at birth. Doctors later diagnosed him with a rare disorder known as congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, a central nervous system disorder that causes his breathing to stop when he falls asleep.

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The disorder is extremely rare impacting less than 1,500 people throughout the world.

The 11-year-old needs a ventilator when he sleeps.

“If he gets tired or if he goes to sleep or gets sick, he stops breathing completely and has to be on a ventilator so we always have to take that with us wherever we go along with a suction pump and oxygen,” said his mother.

The gift box also includes a virtual reality headset that features the dolphins at the aquarium, including Winter.

“She was famous for having a prosthetic tail. She actually is totally fine swimming without that tail, but it is more like physical therapy for her,” said Kelsy Long, with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

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“It’s been one of greatest pleasures to share CMA and our mission with our guests…and with health conditions impacting the ability for many of the guests we want to share these new views with, we thought we’d bring the aquarium to them – virtually,” said Frank Dame, CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

On Friday, CMA is unveiling new views, retail space, a new cafe and new guest space.

The aquarium opened its new dolphin habitat in July. It is home to five dolphins that cannot be released into the wild.

“This new habitat is 1.5 million gallons which is three times what we had previously,” said Long.

“We have been dreaming of this new space for 14 years,” said Dame.

For more information on the aquarium, click here.

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