News out of SeaWorld shows just how big of an impact 'Blackfish' has had.

In 2013, documentary "Blackfish" was released. And SeaWorld — or, more specifically, our perceptions of SeaWorld — changed forever.

The film explored the life of Tilikum, an orca (killer whale) living at SeaWorld Orlando that's been involved in three separate human deaths — in 1991, 1999, and 2010. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to cast blame on an unruly, dangerous orca, just the opposite is true: It was Tilikum's years in captivity that resulted in his hostility.

Tilikum, splashing around in captivity, in 2011. Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.


Orcas are not naturally aggressive to humans. But living in captivity can significantly reduce an orca's life span, affect its health, and inflict a great deal of stress, which likely contributed to Tilikum's aggressive outbursts, animal rights activists have argued.

For the record, SeaWorld has maintained that "Blackfish" "paints a distorted picture" of orcas in its care and argued that many key facts about its parks' conservation and rehabilitation efforts were left out of the film. But the facts spoke for themselves — and people weren't pleased.

In the months following the release of "Blackfish," SeaWorld's profits dropped a whopping 84%.

Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images.

The company cited “continued brand challenges” as the reason for its major dip in park attendance, The Guardian reported. (That's code for "the truth about our orca program is reaching far and wide.")

Fortunately, out of the goodness of its heart (and its plummeting sales), SeaWorld has been changing its ways.

For the first time, a new SeaWorld park is opening without any killer whales in it. Instead, the park will rely on other innovative attractions to bring in visitors.

The park, set to open its doors in Abu Dhabi in 2022, will have a marine life research and rehabilitation center (a first in the United Arab Emirates) — but no orca breeding program or controversial killer whale shows, CNN reported.

Although specifics have yet to be announced, the park will focus on different (less harmful) thrills for guests.

It's not the first bit of good news out of SeaWorld for animal activists this year. In March 2016, the company announced it's phasing out its orca breeding programs and killer whale shows for good (although many of its orcas are young, so they will still be kept in captivity for years to come).

The new orca-free SeaWorld is a great reminder that we especially need right now: to use your voice (and wallet) to make a difference.

A controversial new president-elect is sending shock waves around the globe. War-torn Syria is grappling with unconscionable human tragedy. Native Americans have to protest Big Oil in historic numbers in order for the world to pay even the slightest bit of attention. These problems seem too big to fathom for many of us.

"Blackfish" persuading people to spend their vacation dollars somewhere other than SeaWorld these past few years proves that one thing is always true: Real change is possible.

Funds have poured into causes most at-risk during a Trump presidency. Rallies around the world are demanding we don't look away from the atrocities in Aleppo. And, just this month, the Standing Rock Sioux won a resounding victory in stopping a destructive pipeline from ruining its sacred lands (although the work there is far from over).

It's a good lesson to remember in 2017: Stepping up and speaking out does make an impact.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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