Merritt Island, FLA. Parents from around the world are converging on this small coastal town in hopes that a controversial new therapy will help their children cope with conditions ranging from post-operative rehabilitation to hypersensitivities to touch.
The new program is an off-shoot of dolphin therapy which was popular until 2010, the year dolphins were put under the protection of the Federal Wildlife Agency. However, the need for alternative fish-based therapies never abated and to cope with the demand, dolphins have been replaced by specially-trained domesticated sharks which children as young as 3-yrs old can now touch, swim and even hitch a ride.
"The turn-around we are seeing in these kids is amazing," said Ellen Trumfounder, director of Swim For Your Life Aquatic Camps. "Sure, they start out crying when they see that big fin coming at them, but soon they are splashing and yelling and interacting with others with great fervor. I've actually seen it bring tears to some parent's eyes."
And the pediatric self-improvement industry is standing up and taking notice. "We are watching this development closely," said John Ferburr, president of the Skinner Foundation. "Studies have shown that violent video-games, giant 3D IMAX shoot-em-up movies and loud monster truck shows have hardened young people to the point where gentle, non-threatening dolphins no longer make an impact. Sharks, in the meantime, seem to be one of the only things left that can make the immediate type of impression we are looking for."
Naturally, the new movement has its detractors, some who say the dangers far outweigh the benefits. One of these groups, Citizens for Halting Underwater Mayhem, are particularly dismayed that parents would subject their children to such extreme ends.
"I don't think the government should allow this to happen," yelled Doris Rhydermacher, CHUM's spokesperson who was protesting outside the camp gate. "Just look at those precious babies bobbing in the water with those menacing things floating by. They must look like little Skittles to them."
"These sharks are well-fed and are bred to be non-threatening," answered the flustered Trumfounder. "I assure you they are no more dangerous than manatees."
"Manatees with very sharp teeth," mocked the protesters.
In fact, Swim For Your Life has been cited for numerous violations of child safety laws in the past. The last one being in December, 2012, when the Broward County Child Welfare agency fined the resort $350 for a shark attack on a 9-year old boy recovering from rotator cuff surgery.
"Yes, that case was an anomaly and has been fixed," said Trumfounder. "We forgot to feed Fat Nat that day but he has since been defanged and should no longer be a problem," she added. "Besides the stitches, the session was a success because during his emergency egress, the boy was finally able to demonstrate full range of motion."
If you would like to try your luck with shark therapy, enroll your children now by contacting the resort at firstname.lastname@example.org. Slots are filling fast for their next scheduled retreat this coming April 1st.