Downers Grove nonprofit changing lives with new wave of therapy

For 20 years, the nonprofit Diveheart has been changing lives by introducing a new wave of therapy.

"They're no longer 'Johnny in a wheelchair,' it's now 'Johnny the scuba diver.' It creates a paradigm shift in their mind and now they focus on their abilities and what they can do," said Jim Elliott, Diveheart Founder and President.

Diveheart’s "World Headquarters" is in Downers Grove, but they have helped military veterans and others with disabilities as far as Malaysia.

When her only options were to sink or swim, Amber Rangel choose the latter.

Rangel was a nationally ranked barefoot water skier. In 2013, she suffered a devastating injury that led to paralysis.

"It was a pretty dark time in my life," said Rangel. "Diveheart overall has just given me the confidence and the hope to experience new things and continue to thrive for more."


Rangel is one of thousands of people certified to scuba dive with the nonprofit Diveheart, which is the brainchild of former Chicago media executive Jim Elliott.

The organization gets them underwater all over the world. Those with a disability are never alone because they are paired with up to three dive buddies.

Groundbreaking research on the program has found deep water can trigger serotonin, the feel-good hormone in the brain.

Elliott has big plans to build a deep warm water therapy pool in Lake County to replicate open water for research and rehabilitation.

Diveheart now hopes to help even more people with something that hasn't been done in the Midwest before.

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