'A meaningful experience': Oahu programs team up to introduce kids to dolphins

KAHALA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dolphin Quest Oahu and Guide Dogs of Hawaii teamed up to offer a first-ever opportunity for blind clients to get up close with bottlenose dolphins on Sunday at the Kahala Hotel and Resort.

"It's nice to hear about them if they have them described. But it's actually such a meaningful experience for them to touch them and get the sensory experience," said Jeanne Torres, executive director of Guide Dogs of Hawaii.

About a dozen children and teenagers jumped at the opportunity — and nearly all of them has been blind since birth.

Guide Dogs of Hawaii trains and provides guide dogs and technology aids to blind clients. The dolphin swim is a new activity the organization hopes to offer on a regular basis.

Rachel Awa and her four-year-old daughter Aurelia participated in the event. Aurelia said she wanted to "touch and feel them" and maybe even give them a kiss.

"I think this is a good experience for her to meet an ocean animal," Awa said.

Ezra White, 15, was both nervous and excited as he waited for his turn.

"It's the only opportunity I have to connect with sea life," White said. "Sea animals are very important for me culturally. I have much respect for them."

Dolphin Quest tailors programs for all types of participants, including those with physical challenges.

"I think it will be a easy to be introducing these special guests to our animals because they know about that human partner bond," said Julie Rocho-Levine, manager of marine animals at Dolphin Quest. "They work with dogs very closely help them in their lives."

"We have a very good turnout," Torres said. "The kids are really excited. I'm looking forward to more."

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.