I have four children; the youngest of whom is Abby. Abby has participated in many special recreation activities over the past years. While swimming with the Special Olympic team in Oak Lawn, her instructor, Emily, approached us about having Abby learn to scuba dive. Abby is always up for trying anything, but I was very hesitant. It took several years and several friends to finally convince me to let Abby try. At first she was a little unsure, but Abby loved all of the people that worked with her. Their kind, patient nature made it very interesting and fun for her. After a few weeks Emily suggested that Abby bring her older sister with her. Abby and her sister Tracy have always had some great adventures together and this was no exception. Not only have I seen Abby do something I never thought she would, scuba dive, but she has greatly increased her swimming stamina and love of being under the water. (I sometimes worry she is going to forget she doesn’t have an oxygen tank on!) Additionally, Abby has always been outgoing, but this has helped even with that. She has added many words to her vocabulary and continues to amaze friends and family with what she knows.

Barb Mathias


There is a certain indescribable awe when one can immerse themselves in the beauty of the aquatic environment, that moment when one experiences firsthand what has been taught or shown on video and realizes that words cannot describe it and videos shape a perception that is incomplete at best. My first open ocean dive was in Cozumel, in a location I was later to learn ranked in the top 10 spots of none other than Jacques Cousteau. To be able to have that experience required taking a leap of personal faith when it came to my own confidence in my abilities. When my own niece, disabled at the age of 9 and unable to walk since then, expressed an interest in SCUBA after hearing about my dives, it was easy enough to say 'why not?', but a bit of a challenge to actually make that a reality. I volunteered for 7 years with another organization that works with persons with disabilities to experience SCUBA. I have seen the positive effects on many individuals and families. Their accomplishments are inspirational. That inspiration transcends what we do in the pool or open water environments and touches the lives of our volunteers. They in turn want to share their love of the sport. The overall experience is such a positive one, it is hard to not be drawn to it. The community we serve needs opportunities like this and it needs the support of those who see these opportunities not just as a SCUBA experience, but as a foundation upon which to build confidence and all the benefits that come with that confidence. It is not just the participant divers and their families who learn about themselves and their true abilities, all of us learn. All of us gain confidence. This is why I choose to continue along this path.

Robert Hemedinger
President, Imagine Diving

I have wanted to SCUBA since the 80s when a transformer crushed my foot and crushed that dream. Now, years later and dealing with my physical disability and PTSD, Imagine Diving has given me the opportunity and equipment to make my dream come true. Their knowledgeable, understanding, and compassionate divers support and mentor me. With their help, I have overcome my “challenges” and am in the process of becoming SCUBA certified. The boost Imagine Diving has given to my confidence, spirit and outlook on life cannot be measured but is priceless to me. They’ve taught me that barriers are mere challenges to be overcome and that I’m not alone. I have Imagine Diving on my side.

United States Army Veteran