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Dolphin Tale Inspires Hope On-Screen & Off

CLEARWATER (CBS4) – The true story of a tail-less dolphin and her story of inspiration and hope opens in movie theaters Friday.

The star of "Dolphin Tale" is Winter, a 6-year-old Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin who has quite a tale; as in both her story and her actual tale.

Winter lost her tail after she was tangled up in a crab-trap line in 2005.

She was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where she learned to swim again and then adapted to a revolutionary, state-of-the art prosthetic tail.

Her inspirational story of perseverance made her a global media star, quadrupled aquarium attendance and spawned a lucrative line of toys, books and other merchandise.

Winter continues to thrive at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where her trainer Abby Stone said Winter's story is about never giving up. "Can you say hi?" Stone said to Winter. With that, Winter surfaced from the water, rolled to her side and waved her fin. "Good job!" said Stone.

Winter eats 14 pounds of fish a day, swims around with and without her new tail and she even talks. In fact, Stone said she's very chatty; it's part of her charm.

"People find that very appealing, it's a way of communicating," said Stone. Just then, Winter made a whistling noise. "She has many different types of vocals," explained Stone.

Winter's struggles and triumphs are especially meaningful to 9-year-old Lydia Olmsted and her mom. Lydia was born blind, has problems with her feet and is now wheelchair bound while healing after surgery.

She was able to spend some time with Winter.

"She felt like smooth rubber," said Lydia Olmsted. "I got to feed her fish and I also got to give her a kiss."

"You got to give her a kiss?" asked CBS4's Ted Scouten. "I did!" she responded. "That must have been cool," said Scouten. "It was," she said.

It was so much more than cool, it was life changing.

"She inspired me to never give up," said Lydia. "She never did give up, when she lost her tail."

Lydia's mom explained Winter is a true inspiration.

"She just keeps her in her heart every day," said her mom. "She just keeps inspiring her to keep going, try to do her best and have a good day no matter what."

Now Winter is making a splash on the big screen in the movie "Dolphin Tale."

Lydia and her mom hope that when others see it, they'll get that same message of hope.

"Just kind of take what you have been given," her mom said as she began to cry. "Take what you've been given and enjoy your life! It's a blessing."

The charismatic animal plays herself in "Dolphin Tale" though an animatronic dolphin is used for the more dangerous scenes. The family-friendly 3-D movie stars Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson.

To check out Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, you can see her in person, or click here to see her live on 4 web cams trained on her pool.

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