CLEARWATER, Fla. — A family from Switzerland traveled to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Tuesday for an emotional reunion years after the organization granted their dying daughter's wish to meet Winter the dolphin.

What You Need To Know

  • Zoe Guignard died of cancer at age 4, she met Winter the dolphin before passing

  • The Guignard family reunited with dolphins and staff this week at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

  • Former CMA CEO writes about Zoe's visit in a new book called Swimming UPstream

  • Winter died of natural causes in November of 2021

  • Visit the Guignard Family Foundation

"When Zoe met Winter it was two days after that she passed away here in a Tampa hospital," said Zoe's mom, Natalie Guignard. "We thought at the time that we would be able to bring her back home but unfortunately cancer was going too fast." ​

Zoe passed away on October 26, 2013. Just two days before her fifth birthday. Guignard said her daughter had two wishes: the first was to grow up to be a nurse and the second was to meet Winter.

"We were so happy that she could meet Winter," she said. "It's a wonderful memory for us." 

The Guignard family was hoping to see Winter again, but the famous dolphin passed away last November from natural causes.

"It was difficult because we hoped that we could meet Winter again," said Guignard. "It's also like a page of our history with our daughter that is now gone. So, we were very sad when we heard that Winter passed away."​

Zoe Guignard and her family meet with Winter alongside Clearwater Marine Aquarium trainers in 2013. (Guignard)

David Yates was the aquarium's CEO at the time and said Winter was filming the Dolphin Tale 2 movie when Zoe's time-sensitive request came in. 

"Having the privilege of helping the family meet their dying wish of their young daughter," he said. "I mean, how do you beat that?" ​

Production on the movie stopped while Zoe was visiting.

"Everybody stopped working just for us," said Guignard. "Just for a half hour so we could have time, so we could meet Winter at that time and it was amazing because like I said two days later Zoe passed away."

Yates wrote about the powerful visit in his new book titled Swimming Upstream

'Swimming UPstream,' a new book by former CMA CEO David Yates, includes details of Zoe Guignard's visit. (David Yates)

"Having them come back is very emotional for me because I lived the story," he said. "I got to know the family."

Yates said the family's visit proves that Winter's legacy will live on forever.

"Winter's still inspiring people," he said. "You're seeing an example of that right now."

The Guignard family ​started a foundation called Zoe4life that supports children with cancer, their families and research.

The Guignard family visits a paver stone honoring Zoe at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. (Guignard)