CLEARWATER, Fla. - Both of Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s rescued dolphins are celebrating milestones this week: Winter turned 12 on Tuesday and Hope will celebrate her seventh birthday on Wednesday.

A crowd serenaded Winter Tuesday afternoon with “Happy Birthday” as trainers tossed fish to the dolphin.

Beside the trainers, an 11-year-old girl leaned over and smiled as she pets the mammal’s belly.

“She feels comfortable because she’s not alone,” Melissa Wallace said of her daughter, Emily. “She knows there are other people, other animals that are going through things just like her.”

Emily, who has endured nearly a dozen surgeries in her young life, couldn’t wait to meet Winter. The dolphin was rescued from a crab trap line on December 10, 2005. Injuries sustained from the line required the dolphin’s tail to be removed.

Through the use of a prosthetic tail, Winter has inspired thousands of children with physical limitations, like Emily, to persevere through trials.

“That’s Winter and that’s Hope. That one has a tail and that one doesn’t,” said Emily, pointing to the ages of the dolphins she drew. “(Winter’s) special like me.”

Kids 12 and under who bring a birthday card for Winter or Hope will get admission to the aquarium for $9.99 until Monday.

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