1. Hillsborough

They want to be part of Ariel's world

They sat poolside sporting multi colored and patterned swimsuits and shivering in 60 degree weather, their tiny hands rubbing their shoulders and arms.

But as they dipped their feet into the warm water of the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center's heated pool and their blue silicon fins began to grow, they lost all care about the chilly breeze. Mariah Diaz, 19, started swimming around in her purple-patterned newly formed tail, gold and silver glitter adorning her face and arms.

And so the center's first mermaid training session for ages 5-12 started last week.

Inspired by the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid training, Theresa Hickie, the center's senior director of sports programming at wanted to bring something similar to the youth in the Brandon area. She approached Diaz, a lifeguard at the center, about teaching the young girls to swim like the mermaids they've come to know and love.

"I've been wanting to do a mermaid camp, and Mariah adapted to the mermaid world really quickly," Hickie said. "She put the tail on, and she was in the water flipping and floating around. We wanted to bring a camp to the kids in this area, because they just love mermaids."

On the girls first day of class, excitement filled the air more than the gusts of wind. They started to kick in their fins that joined their feet together much like a mermaid tail. They no longer had the ability to move their legs separately.

Many of the young girls joined the camp longing to emulate characters like Disney's Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

Just putting on the tails thrilled Kaylee Paruas, 9. Ariana Shiver, 8, looked forward to matching her swimming skills with the mermaid jewelry she loves to wear.

Clover Dinnis, 7, planned to sail through the training.

"I'm on the swim team so this will be easy," Dinnis said.

Diaz said the girls will, "go through hoops in the water, maneuver themselves throughout hula hoops, pick up rings and we'll put on a show at the end."

The show will be the final part of the camp where they can show off their new skills and wear the glitter just like Diaz, BSAC's first ever in-resident mermaid.

For more information, visit or call (813) 689-0908.

Contact Katelyn Massarelli at