May 20, 2013 3:33 PM by NBC News
(WFLA) Ireland Nugent, the 2-year-old girl who lost her feet and part of her legs in a lawnmower accident, was invited by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Saturday to visit Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail.
Initially, the toddler was apprehensive about the visit.
"She was a little scared at first when she got over her fear and started doing the hand motion and petting Winter and really lost the fear," said Nicole Nugent, Ireland's mother.
She and Jerry Nugent say the visit was important in showing Ireland she can overcome her injuries.
"Just for her to get to experience and to see Winter without her tail and still see that Winter has such a vibrant life, can play, and whistle and you can play games with her, really lets her know that she can still do the same things," said Nicole.
Jerry Nugent feels the same: "I think she's already taught her some lessons that you know there are other animals and humans out there that don't have legs and they're still going and it makes her feel more normal."
The aquarium donated $2.00 for each ticket sold, plus any money that was placed in donation boxes around the facility, to assist with the Nugent family's medical expenses. The aquarium also hosted live auctions during which visitors were able to bid on paintings and books autographed by Winter and other dolphins.
Nicole Nugent says she continues to be overwhelmed by the community support.
"The community outreach has been amazing and has touched our hearts so much. It's been so supportive and makes me realize that out of all the bad things that are going on in the world, there's so much good, really left."
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