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Zero gravity underwater gives Ryan O’Toole of West Dundee “the greatest feeling in the world.” With the help of former media executive Jim Elliott, Ryan, who has Leigh’s Disease or Leigh’s syndrome, can escape gravity, leaving his wheelchair behind, if just for a brief time.
 
Ryan’s neurological disorder may have imprisoned his body and left him non verbal ( he communicates with a key board ) but has not impaired his mind. One word seems to sum up Ryan’s experience underwater and that word is “Freedom.”
 
Ryan and others with disabilities are able to escape gravity and experience what Elliott calls “Scuba Therapy” with help from the Downers Grove based volunteer driven nonprofit Diveheart, that Elliott founded in 2001. 
 
The gravity underwater is very much like the moon, except divers can control their buoyancy with their breath underwater. “We call this their Astronaut Moment” said Elliott.  “There are many great therapies out there for people with physical and developmental disabilities, but at Diveheart we have the franchise on Zero Gravity and we intend on using it to help children, veterans and others with disabilities Imagine the Possibilities in their lives.” He added.
 
Physically impaired individuals like Ryan can benefit from improved range of motion, circulation, improved bladder integrity, and it can even help with chronic pain and PTSD symptoms.  Diveheart collaborates with university medical centers around the country on research projects surrounding Scuba Therapy. In fact, Downers Grove based Midwestern University, working with Diveheart participants, conducted the worlds first study on Autism and Scuba Therapy. Pressure is a therapy for those with Autism. “Underwater surface distractions are illuminated and it’s easier to focus.” Said Elliott.  More can be found about the benefits of zero gravity and Scuba Therapy in the Diveheart media kit at www.diveheart.org
 
Diveheart’s mission and vision is to take the many times unrealized human potential that exists in those with disabilities and get them in the water to create a paradigm shift. “Johnny in the wheelchair becomes Johnny the Scuba Diver, giving him a new sense of confidence, independence and self esteem. He no longer is identified by his disabilty which allows him to focus on what he can do instead of what he can’t do. He then can go and take on new challenges” Elliott added.
 
Diveheart participants like Ryan inspire others to take on challenges in their lives that they may have been afraid to. It is this very ripple effect that also inspires Elliott to grow Adaptive Scuba programs around the world. Diveheart is funded through individual donations, grants and corporate giving. 
(pictured: Jim Elliot, and Ryan O'Toole.)

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