Dolphin inspires reluctant 7-year-old to walk with new prosthetics

PHOENIX, AZ (KPHO) -- Inspiration can come in all forms, even in the body of a little dolphin with a special tail.

Fernanda Rubio, who is only 7, walks and even runs in her pink prosthetics she calls "stubbies."

"I can walk," she said as she made her way down the aisles of a Valley library.

But it wasn't long ago that even the thought of putting on prosthetics would bring about tears.

"She was with them for a year, she kept crying," Fernanda's mother, Edith Rubio, said. "She didn't want them. She kept crying. "

Fernanda's original prosthetics were tall and made it hard for her to balance.

"I was scared," she said in a quiet voice.

But one day she and her parents watched the movie Dolphin Tale, a storyabout a dolphin named Winter who needed a prosthetic tale to get around.

"He has a prosthetic leg, like me," Fernanda said as she wiggled the tale of a stuffed "Winter."

"She was very excited that there was a dolphin just like her that was using a prosthetic leg," her father, Julio Rubio, said. "So that encouraged her to use her prosthetics."

In fact, the Rubios contacted the same company that made Winter's prosthetic tail, and that company developed Fernanda's shorter, more stylish legs.

They even arranged for Fernanda to go to a special camp in Florida called No Limits, where she got to hang out with other kids like her.

She even got to meet and touch her inspiration, the real Winter.

"And I touched his tail," she said through a wide grin. "I gave him a high five."

The story would be amazing enough if it ended there, but the day Fernanda was with Winter, the film crew for Dolphin Tale 2 was there, as well, and now Fernanda is going to have a guest spot in the movie.

"She didn't even notice the cameras in there, nothing," her mother said. "She was just focusing on Winter and all her friends were there so she was so happy to do that."

"Yeah, she thinks she's a movie star," Julio Rubio said.

One thing is for sure, Fernanda is more confident around her classmates, her parents said.

That was evident as she celebrated her birthday with her class and joined in on the fun.

"Fernanda, you know, she has gone through a lot, but she is a very brave little girl," Julio Rubio said. "Today, she turns 7, and it's her birthday, and she's just a really happy person, a very happy little girl."

A day of celebration it was. And, of course, there were the traditional items.

"I'm getting presents," Fernanda said.

"So proud of her," Edith Rubio said. "Because we waited so long, it was two years after she'd been sick, we thought she was not going to walk. Now seeing her with new prosthetics and balancing and trying to walk, it was so exciting for us."

Dolphin Tale 2 opens Friday, and the whole Rubio family will be front and center for her starring scene.

And camp No Limits is coming to Arizona in March.