These special dolphins have become a symbol of hope, having adapted wonderfully, living in their new home on Paradise Island in The Bahamas and exploring a new life. Atlantis' team of 45 marine mammal specialists, so moved by their experiences with these animals, have honored an important commitment made to Don Jacobs, Board Chairman of Marine Life Oceanarium, to maintain a connection with the many Gulf-based families that had a special relationship with the dolphins.
The seventeen families were chosen by Corps of Compassion (http://www.jointhecorps.org), a non-profit grassroots organization that was born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In working closely with thousands of people in the last year, their team helped Atlantis find the families currently living in Mississippi, New Orleans and around the country.
"The stories surrounding these families are only the tip of the iceberg as far as the horrors that many Katrina victims have experienced. Several are still living in FEMA trailers and trailer parks, children are having trouble adjusting to their new environments, and families are struggling with terminal illness and learning disabilities. The families we brought to Atlantis have unbelievable, heroic and staggering histories. We were thrilled to work with Atlantis to offer these families their first vacation and break together amidst tragic life circumstances," explains Scott Sullivan, co-founder of Corps of Compassion.
These seventeen children were the first guests to interact with the animals in the water - an appropriate mark of the dolphins' positive acclimation to their new home. The marine mammal specialists developed a special agenda for the families that included an official adoption of each of the Katrina Dolphins. The children spent the three days with their dolphin feeding them, observing them with the Atlantis marine mammal and medical lab staff and veterinarians, swimming with them and playing a variety of games - some developed by the children, others that have emerged as favorites for the dolphins.
"These dolphins made their home for many years in Gulfport. It was very important to us that we continued to maintain a link with that community and this evolved, with the help of Corps of Compassion, into an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of seventeen children and their families," said Frank Murru, Kerzner's Chief Marine Officer. "Like the dolphins before their move to Atlantis, many of these families are struggling to find a permanent home. To them, we hope the dolphins are a symbol of hope," he added.
The Dolphins Jill, Kelly, Jacki, Michelle, Tamra, Toni, Noah, Elijah, Tessi, Cherie, Brewer, Katelyn, Johnah, Wee Tee, Echo, Sasha and Naia have created a permanent bond with children Isaac (7, Louisiana), Kameron (9, Mississippi), Jacob (7, Louisiana), Steven (6, was from New Orleans, now in Florida), Daniel-Rae (7, Mississippi), Kendyl (9, Mississippi), Nicholas (7, was from New Orleans, now in Nevada), Hannah (7, Louisiana), Zenovia (11, Louisiana), Jessica (9, was from Biloxi, now in Nevada), Jared (8, from New Orleans, now in Nevada), Daniel (7, from New Orleans, now in Nevada), Janelle (10, from New Orleans, now in Nevada), Jerlicia (7, Louisiana), Leanna (10, Louisiana), Lance (7, Louisiana) and Julius (10, Mississippi). The children will stay in contact with the marine mammal specialists and medical team throughout the year to continue to track their progress (and perhaps even help name some babies).
"Our team at the resort has made an incredible commitment to these children. These days with the animals, along with the chance for these families to take their first vacation amidst some tragic life circumstances, were extremely emotional and gratifying for everyone," explains George Markantonis, President/Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas. "This program will further reinforce our commitment to the community affected by Hurricane Katrina. By providing these children with an enduring relationship with these marine mammals, Atlantis hopes to share these special dolphins as a symbol of optimism and renewal for residents of the coastal Mississippi area."
In addition to the dolphin adoption and interaction experience, Atlantis partnered with Kodak to give each of the children a digital camera to capture their experiences and to take a portrait of their dolphin for a permanent exhibit that will open in early 2007 when Dolphin Cay is ready to welcome visitors. The exhibit will tell the story of each child and dolphin and will grow with the births of baby dolphins. Concurrently, renowned photographer and videographer Ron Garrison shot the children with the dolphins for his new coffee table book on the Katrina Dolphins to be published in 2007. Portions of the proceeds on the book will go towards the Kerzner Marine Foundation, a $5 million foundation established to address the conservation of the world's oceans, cetaceans and coral reefs (http://www.kerznermarinefoundation.org).
About Atlantis, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
Atlantis, Paradise Island is the flagship resort of Kerzner International, a leading international developer and operator of destination resorts, casinos and luxury hotels. The 2,317-room, ocean-themed destination resort in the Caribbean is located on Paradise Island, The Bahamas. This unique property features three interconnected hotel towers built around a 34-acre waterscape with eleven million gallons of fresh and saltwater lagoons and pools. The resort offers an entertainment center with the largest casino in the Caribbean, an impressive collection of luxury boutiques and shops and extensive meeting and convention facilities. Home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world - second only to Mother Nature, there are 50,000 marine animals in lagoons and displays including The Dig, a maze of underwater corridors and passageways providing a journey through ancient Atlantis. The Company recently commenced development of a major expansion that includes a 600-room all-suite luxury hotel called THE COVE and a significant enhancement to Atlantis water-based attractions. Certain parts of this expansion have already opened, including Marina Village at Atlantis, with the remaining elements expected to open by early 2007. For further information about Atlantis, Paradise Island; telephone 954-809-2000, or visit on-line at Atlantis.com. For reservations, call your travel agent or 800-ATLANTIS.
Both low and high-resolution color photography of Atlantis, Paradise Island is available at AtlantisBrand.com. If you are a new user to this site, please complete the online registration to be granted access to the Digital Asset Library.
About Kerzner Marine Foundation
The Kerzner Marine Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation that fosters the preservation and enhancement of global marine ecosystems through scientific research, education, and community outreach. The Foundation is funded by Kerzner International Limited (NYSE:KZL), a leading international developer and operator of resorts, casinos, and luxury resort properties. The strategic focus of Kerzner Marine Foundation is protecting the integrity of tropical marine ecosystems which are becoming increasingly threatened due to overexploitation and overpopulation. Priority is placed on projects that include the development and management of marine protected areas, coral reef conservation, as well as dolphin and whale conservation and research in the Caribbean, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. For more information, visit http://www.kerznermarinefoundation.org.
About Corps of Compassion
Corps of Compassion is a 501c3 non-profit grass roots organization dedicated to connecting survivors of disasters to available resources. The Corps, which was initially formed by Louisiana native Scott Sullivan and Las Vegan Joelle Jarvis in response to Hurricane Katrina, is committed to developing leadership and community empowerment for adults and young people, the latter through Kids Corps. To date, Corps of Compassion has assisted over 10,000 Katrina survivors and first responders through case management, facilitating government aid and contributions. The Corps has also been successful in keeping the conditions and status of victims in the public eye, and has expanded benefits to include vital necessities for children in need. Funding comes from individuals, corporations, faith based organizations, and fundraising events.