At the age of 13, Sophia Young embarked on a mission to give her older brother, Caleb, his life wish. Caleb, who has Tetrasomy 18p, has only asked his family for one thing in life: to swim with dolphins. Last July, Sophia decided to make it happen.
Sophia started a Facebook page entitled “Caleb’s Dream Trip” in July of 2012 and sold dream catchers for $3 with a goal to reach $15,000 to fund Caleb’s trip. The Young family thought it would take several years to reach the monetary amount needed to take a trip to the Keys, but with incredible support from the local media in Fort Wayne, Indiana, neighboring Ohio areas, and her Facebook fans, Sophia and her family raised the money in less than a year.
The majority of the money came in after January of this year. After a radio spot, Sophia raised over $1,000 in three days. By March, she’d brought in $10,000. The family decided to make plans for their trip. It wasn’t until the day before they left that Sophia reached her goal.
Sophia’s mother found Dolphin Research Center while searching online last November. They felt that DRC had the right atmosphere for Caleb and that the Special Needs department would make it possible for them to do several interactions with the needed assistance. While here, from July 6th to July 13th, 2013, the family participated in a Dolphin Dip together, and Caleb had the opportunity to do two Dolphin Encounters as well as Paint with a Dolphin. Sophia and Caleb did an Encounter together with Santini and baby Reese. As their family looked on at the siblings, there were tears in their eyes. After each behavior, Caleb excitedly hugged his sister. He couldn’t believe his dream was coming true!
One of the purposes for taking this trip, besides Caleb finally swimming with dolphins, was to see him relax in the water. Like others with Tetrasomy 18p, the clusters of nerve fibers in Caleb’s spinal cord that regulate voluntary and reflex muscle activity do not function appropriately. As a result, affected individuals exhibit several neuromuscular abnormalities, such as increased muscle tone (hypertonia); increased reflex reactions (hyperreflexia); and/or muscle stiffness and awkwardness in movement (spasticity). In addition, in some individuals with Tetrasomy 18p, electrical disturbances may occur in the brain, causing involuntary tightening and relaxing (clonus) of specific muscles or muscle groups (motor seizures).
Due to his condition, Caleb has never been able to fully relax his body. The family felt that interaction with the dolphins in the water would allow this to happen. As Caleb swam out into the lagoon, with assistance from a member of our Special Needs department, and held onto Santini by himself, the relaxation that his family had hoped for was apparent. Sophia and the rest of the family began to cry as he was pulled around the lagoon. Not only was Caleb’s dream realized, but theirs was too.
To reward Sophia for all her hard work and dedication to Caleb’s Dream Trip, her family surprised her with Trainer for a Day. She spent an entire day with trainers learning all about dolphins and partaking in sessions. Sophia told us, “I don’t deserve anything because I did it all for Caleb.” The two, while a decade apart in age, are as close as twins. Sophia tells him all of her secrets and their love for one another is visible to even strangers.
This was the Youngs’ very first family vacation. “What better way to go on vacation than to fulfill my brother’s dream,” says Sophia. While here, the Youngs took in the sights that the Keys offer, visited local restaurants, soaked up the sun, and, of course, gave Caleb the opportunity to live his dream.