Happy Dolphins Encounters (HDE) is a Belgian non-profit organization founded in 2000, consisting of a team of 14 volunteers, including doctors specialized in the treatment of sick children. HDE solicits funds - public and private - to give these children a chance to encounter dolphins in their natural environment in Florida. The goal is to provide an extraordinary and unforgettable experience to children weakened by a serious illness or physical disability, or in a highly precarious social situation.

Adventures contribute to personal development

Since no child should suffer because their condition prevents them from knowing the joy of holidays, our team has decided to give them some happiness by taking them out of their daily life (grueling treatments, regular hospitalizations, schooling problems, etc.). The feelings of delight and amazement brought on by the experience of contact with marine mammals enable them to overcome their difficulties and expand their horizons in terms of respect for others and the environment. This adventure also contributes to their development and raises their self-esteem.

Bringing personal support

In 2010, Olivier Vangaever and Emmanuel Dehantschutter from Sika Automotive Belgium joined HDE to bring in their support and gain an enriching human experience. Since joining the association, they have collaborated on three trips, and Olivier even went on one in person in 2011. HDE has already taken a total of 60 children to Florida. Sika has been supporting the association since 2011, funding one child’s travel costs each year, which means that so far three children have been able to make the trip thanks to Sika.

Living the dream

The dream starts at the airport and in the plane. For some of the children this is the first ever flight. They land in Panama City Beach, where they are welcomed by Water Planet, the team in place in the USA to organize activities. During their week in Panama City Beach, the children live this dream 200%.

No hospital anymore

When the kids return home, they are not the same as before. They are no longer the sick and disabled little boy and little girl, but the children who met the dolphins in the ocean. Their social label has changed. Some of them have gained more independence, others more confidence. Some take comfort from their memories, like the little boy who uses a picture of the dolphins to calm him during anxious moments.

If you like to learn more, visit: www.happydolphins.org