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Colorful Flooring Echoes Dolphin Therapy

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IDC’s 5,000-sq.-ft.facility offers special-needs children therapy classrooms, a library, a meeting room, seven aquatic environments, and locker/shower rooms.

 

Island Dolphin Care Inc. (IDC) is a not-for-profit organization that provides dolphin-assisted therapy to critically ill, disabled, and special-needs children. The Key Largo, FL, organization was created by Deena Hoagland, after witnessing the remarkable recovery experienced by her three-year-old son, Joe, who suffered a stroke during his third open-heart surgery.

 

Deena and her husband Peter took Joe to Dolphins Plus, a dolphin research and education facility, located in Key Largo, where guests are given the opportunity to swim with dolphins in a natural setting. The Hoaglands hoped that the dolphins might motivate Joe to use the left side of his body, which was weakened from the stroke. Joe had not responded well to traditional physical, occupational, or speech therapies.

 

At Dolphins Plus, Joe began to make progress physically and psychologically in the non-threatening environment. His muscle tone and flexibility improved and his self-esteem increased. Deena reasoned that if dolphins could help Joe, they might also help other children. She began to take children from her son’s special-needs preschool to swim with the dolphins. In 1997 she and Peter created IDC at the Dolphins Plus facility.

 

Today IDC and its staff of therapists serve approximately 2,000 children annually, offering programs that allow children to swim and play with dolphins and attend motivational recreation classroom sessions. To better provide these services, IDC recently constructed a 5,000-sq.-ft., fully accessible therapy and learning center. The facility features three therapy classrooms, a family resources library, a meeting room, seven aquatic environments with corresponding educational exhibits, and locker/shower rooms.

 

The facility also features 3,400-sq.-ft. of Noraplan Mega and Norament 825 round pastille floor coverings from Freudenberg Building Systems, Lawrence, MA. These environmentally friendly floor coverings compliment the natural setting of the dolphin therapy program. Made from renewable natural rubber, natural fillers, and environmentally compatible color pigments, all Nora products are also completely free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plasticizers, and halogens. In addition, the floor coverings feature low VOC emissions, the off-gassing from products that occurs under specific conditions. As a result, the flooring helps to ensure good indoor air quality throughout the facility.

 

Rubber flooring’s slip resistance and resilience provide additional benefits to the facility and its occupants. “We work with special children and I wanted a flooring that was not going to be rough or hard on their falls, and one that would offer slip resistance. I also wanted something that was going to look good and that we didn’t have to wax,” Hoagland said.

 

Rubber flooring fit the bill. Unlike many resilient floor coverings, rubber floors do not need to be waxed or sealed because of their dense, nonporous surface. All that is required to maintain the rubber floor coverings is simple dust mopping and wet mopping with a mild, pH-neutral, cleaning product. No coating or waxing is required either, which eliminates the need to strip or rewax the floor later in the maintenance cycle. Labor costs decrease, as do the costs of cleaning supplies.

 

Nora takes these maintenance advantages to a new level with Cleanguard, a manufacturing process that produces a dense, nonporous, dirt-repellent surface. This process provides enhanced resistance to scuffing, increased resistance to soiling and staining, easier maintenance, and eliminates the need to coat or wax the floors.

 

Designers working on the IDC facility used a total of nine different flooring colors to create colorful designs, patterns, and shapes that brighten the center and tie the building to the surrounding environment. Waves and dolphins, along with circles and abstract patterns in the floors of classrooms, foyers, exhibit areas, and stairwells, remind visitors of the dolphins that are at the heart of the center’s programs. Additionally, wheelchairs pivot easily on the rubber surface, and children delight in the color that surrounds them. “It really is an extraordinary floor and it looks great,” Hoagland said.