By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — Blame COVID-19 for snuffing out so many dreams and happiness. But a suburban non-profit powered through and found a way to help many people take the dive, Literally.

Morning Insider Tim McNicholas reports on a much-delayed scuba trip and how COVID still managed to rear its ugly head.

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“I love that bright sun.”

This is a moment Chris Block dreamed of for two years. His first-time scuba diving since 2019.

“It’s my favorite thing to do,” he said.

He went on a trip to Mexico earlier this month with Diveheart -— a nonprofit that provides scuba diving experiences to people with disabilities.

Chris was paralyzed from the chest down five years ago in a bicycle accident.

“Helps me forget about my disability and helps me almost overcome it, nonexistent,” Block said.

But the pandemic caused murky waters for Diveheart. Founder Jim Elliott says they canceled 11 trips and 200 pool programs across the country.

“Because we have folks that have compromised immune systems and co-morbidities and we did not want anyone dying on our watch,” Elliott said.

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Finally, with many in the Diveheart community vaccinated, the group decided to book a trip to Mexico.

Elliott says they added an extra boat and had to turn some people away to limit the group size — even though they were anxious to get back in the water after two years.

Tim: “Was it worth it?”

Jim: “Oh yea, I mean the smiles on their faces. Everyone is crying, hugging. So, it definitely, definitely was worth it.”

But even with those precautions, the trip was not without its hurdles. Of the 41 people on the trip, 8 wound up testing positive for COVID at the end.

Elliott says seven of them were volunteers, and thankfully all 8 had mild cases.

Block suspects the cases were mild because most were vaccinated.

“This was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would do again even with a couple of the people winding up testing positive for COVID,” Block said.

Now he’s back to daydreaming of the sunshine from Highland Park.

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Diveheart is raising money for future trips to get more people back in the water but they’re also keeping a close watch on COVID numbers. If there’s a surge at the wrong time, they might have to cancel yet again.

Tim McNicholas