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Famous dolphin reunited with fisherman who rescued her 14 years ago

Winter became the inspiration for the 'Dolphin Tale' movies. She calls the Clearwater Marine Aquarium home.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — On Dec. 10, 2005, a dolphin was rescued in Mosquito Lagoon along Florida's east coast. A fisherman, Jim Savage, found her caught in a crab trap line.

The line did so much damage, her tale needed to be amputated.

The dolphin could no longer survive in the wild -- and faced a serious struggle even in the care of marine biologists and volunteers at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

She was named Winter, and she now spends her days helping to educate aquarium visitors on the importance of conservation and marine rescue organizations.

Her incredible survival story inspired the movie Dolphin Tale -- and its sequel -- starring Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick, Jr. and Nathan Gamble.

Winter's story touched a little girl in Oregon named Grace Savage. Grace was diagnosed with DiGeorge or velocardiofacial syndrome, which is a chromosomal disorder that results in poor development of several body systems. This condition can cause heart defects, poor immune system function, and low levels of calcium in the blood.

Throughout her life, Grace has relied on Winter's story of perseverance to get through her difficult times.

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Aug. 31, photo, Winter the dolphin swims at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla. The nonprofit public aquarium was about ready to go belly-up at the end of 2005 when Winter, the bottlenose dolphin was brought there after getting her tail tightly entangled in a crab-trap line. Winter plays herself in "Dolphin Tale," a family-friendly 3-D movie starring Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson, opening Sept. 23. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

When it looked like Grace Savage might not make it in 2016, her family worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fly her from Oregon to Florida to meet the inspirational dolphin.

Shortly before her trip in 2016, Grace and her family discovered the fisherman who saved Winter in 2005 was their relative. Jim Savage is Grace Savage's great-uncle. He was unaware the dolphin he saved years before had brought so much joy to his sick grand-niece in Oregon.

On Tuesday, for the first time since 2016, the whole family got together again at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Grace Savage, now 13-years-old is doing a lot better than she was three years ago. She and her sister fed Winter and spent time with the dolphin trainers.

Jim Savage still remembers the day he found Winter. He calls it a bad day of fishing but one of the best days on the water.

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Aug. 31, photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone fits Winter the dolphin with a prosthetic tail in Clearwater, Fla. The nonprofit public aquarium was about ready to go belly-up at the end of 2005 when Winter, the bottlenose dolphin was brought there after getting her tail tightly entangled in a crab-trap line. Winter plays herself in "Dolphin Tale," a family-friendly 3-D movie starring Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson, opening Sept. 23.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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