Ask anyone who really knows Wilhelmina Stanton (known on the popular scuba diving website ScubaBoard.com as Wilsway) and they will tell you that there’s much more to this popular South Florida dive pro than just her pretty smile and love of the underwater world. Her interests are, well, much deeper.
Intrigued by the ocean at a young age, Stanton has been a certified diver since she was first able to complete the program when she was 13. Now, 16 years later, she finds herself working as a divemaster and boat captain with Underwater Explorers in Boynton Beach, Florida and she’s never been more enthusiastic about her life.
“I love to dive. There’s no other way to say it,” she says. “I like being underwater and I feel fortunate to be in such a ‘social career’ that lets me help other people have fun.” Each day, Stanton is part of a small group of dive pros taking divers (both local and visiting travelers) to such popular sites as the M/V Caster wreck, Delray Ledges, and Lynn’s Reef.
This desire to “share” and facilitate incredible experiences isn’t just limited to her day job though. After a few years of taking people diving and introducing them to the local turtle populations and exploring the many area coral reef formations, Stanton felt she wanted to do more. And she did!
A few years ago, the Diveheart Organization burst onto the scene. This non-profit group is dedicated to helping provide the physically-challenged the experience of the underwater world through SCUBA. Stanton quickly became involved and is now the South Florida coordinator. Her particular passion is children and she readily gives her time to help challenged young people try scuba.
“I have a heart for kids with disabilities,” she admits. “Seeing kids do something that people have told them they can’t do is inspiring to me. There’s just something about seeing the smiles on their faces that makes it all worthwhile.” Stanton, who had some experience working with children with disabilities when she was growing up, sees groups like Diveheart as a valuable way to give back. “There weren’t any organizations like this, years ago. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Through her efforts, dozens of children from the Miami Children’s Hospital are able to participate in special “Discover Scuba” events. In addition, Stanton puts on special summer camps for kids and in the winter – Under Blue Waters. Dozens of young people living in South Florida have participated in the summer camp program over the last few years.
One special “event” that Stanton and her friends look forward to every year happens around the holidays. The group presents a special “Discover Scuba with Santa” event. The goal of making young people laugh and experience something different is the same – although the costumes do add a unique holiday spirit, she says.
“It’s amazing – she always has a smile on her face,” says friend Elena Rodriguez. “It’s brought on by her desire to share her love of the ocean with young people. Wilhelmina (we call her Willie) likes doing things for other people – and it shows.”
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