Survivor of brutal 2008 assault shares bond with CMA’s Winter

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Visitors to Clearwater Marine Aquarium often come to see Winter, from the "Dolphin Tale" movies, and come away inspired by the famous dolphin’s story.  However, someone else may have stolen the show on Saturday.

  • 26-year-old Queena Donato survived a brutal attack in 2008
  • Donato has developed a bond with Winter the Dolphin

26-year-old Queena Donato not only celebrated her birthday on May 28 with a special visit to the Aquarium. She also celebrated her survival on the eight-year anniversary of an attack that almost took her life.

In 2008, Donato was studying at the Bloomingdale Library in Brandon when Kendrick Morris raped and beat her, then left her to die.

Donato survived that night, but is no longer able to speak, walk, or live the normal life she once had.

"Going through something like that, it really does change you," said Donato’s older sister, Anna.

Anna has always been by her sister’s side, but Winter and other animals at the Aquarium have also become family. It’s a bond like no other.

"Queena saw winter and she kept looking out there and you could tell she was drawn to her," said Clearwater Marine Aquarium executive director Tom Moor. "So I said to her mom ‘Why don’t we bring her back when the water’s warmer and put her in the water with Winter?’"

To celebrate Donato’s journey, the two got to interact with each other, inspiring all who were around.

"Uplifts your spirit, because she’s fighting so hard for something that she wants so bad, you feel that you can also get through that yourself,” said Anna. 

Bay News 9 – local-news

May 28, 2016 |

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