- Published on Friday, 02 November 2012 17:46
- Written by John Tapley
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By John Tapley
Throughout the years, scuba diving has been a beacon of therapy for disabled people. The tranquility and peace of mind within the blue, coupled with the freedom of the waters, have enabled countless divers the opportunity to piece their lives back together. Our nation’s disabled servicemen and women often use scuba for these very reasons; and to relive the spirit of camaraderie and fellowship. One national charitable organization, Dive Pirates Foundation, has fervently made it their mission to give back to those who made enormous sacrifices for serving their country.
On September 13 of this year, Dive Pirates received some much deserved national attention when they were featured during the premiere week of the new Ricki Lake Show in an episode devoted to the struggles and triumphs of veterans. For the Dive Pirates segment, Ricki and her crew went to the waters and brought to light the recovery of one disabled servicewoman, military intelligence officer Marlene Krpata, who unfortunately lost a leg via an explosive device while serving in Iraq.
Many members of the scuba diving world worked feverishly to bridge Krpata’s journey from the sea to the screen.
An important personal connection initially triggered the story. Ricki associate producer Amora Griñán, a diver and long-time friend of Dive Pirates, pitched the idea to her co-workers while developing their flagship episodes. After Griñán’s co-workers excitingly agreed to her idea, she contacted Sophie Wimberley, one of Dive Pirates’ founders, to set the plan in motion. Wimberley utilized her contacts through the VA and found Krpata in need of assistance. The charitable organization used their resources to fund most of the training services and gear. Due to Krpata’s injury, Wimberley needed to find a custom wetsuit to fit her needs. Surf ‘n Sea Custom Wetsuits of San Diego were more than willing to quickly accommodate her. Pool training and additional gear were purchased through Michael Timm of Dive California and Scuba Schools International (SSI) were instrumental in providing additional support.
Catalina Island off the California coast was chosen as the dive spot because of its close proximity to Ricki’s studio and because Ricki herself was certified on the island. Catalina Divers Supply in nearby Avalon lent their support and charter services. General manager Eric Mahan was more than impressed by the Dive Pirates’ mission and their excitement. “We had a great time working with Dive Pirates,” Mahan exclaims. “It was a great change from our regular, everyday work. All around, they put on a good time!”
Dive Pirates Instructor Randy Wright of The Dive Shop in Memphis (an SSI-affiliated facility and a tremendous asset to the project) was on set during the day and had a blast. “It was a fantastic opportunity to work with a really fantastic individual,” Wright exclaims. “And to have the experience mentioned on a show with such caliber as Ricki’s was not only a real honor and a privilege, but also an opportunity to put this story in front of a whole lot of people who wouldn’t think of it before.”
Ricki herself dove with Krpata during the shoot and also received Dive Pirates’ esteemed Spirit Award. Many on site noticed Krpata’s demeanor change from reserved to cheerful and open as the monumental day went on. More than buddies, all parties joined together to give the soldier a renewed sense of hope and perseverance.