LITHIA – Jenna Conti, also known as Eden Sirène, the mermaid who gained notoriety for being banned from a public FishHawk pool in July for wearing a fishlike tail, is hosting a fundraising cruise on the Enchantment of the Seas for her nascent nonprofit corporation Scales for Tails.
Conti has an affinity for helping children. As a hairstylist for 14 years, she has fitted sick children for hairpieces. Scales for Tails will provide hair for children who have lost theirs due to illness. A mermaid (hence, scales) will deliver hair (such as ponytails).
Her sea-nymph alter ego loves to swim with children and sign autographs to generate money for her charity. She recently performed for the cast of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” at EnchantaCon in Orlando and regularly appears at parties, swim clubs and on pediatric wards.
But seven years ago, things didn’t seem to rosy.
While cutting her mother’s hair, Conti passed out. Tests revealed she had a massive brain tumor.
Surgery was possible, though risky. It could paralyze Conti, but if she did nothing, the tumor would grow and could kill her.
She opted for the procedure, and when she woke up after it, “I could not move my legs, my feet were messed up, I could hardly use my hands anymore and my eyes wouldn’t focus correctly,” she said.
Conti recuperated in the hospital’s pediatric wing, “because there was no room for me anywhere else,” she said.
“I was with extremely sick children – that’s something you definitely don’t forget. When you see children suffering, it’s very hard. You want to do anything you can to help them.”
After weeks of pushing herself, she re-learned how to walk and, soon enough, style hair. Her then 2-year-old son was her motivation.
“I wanted to be there for him and be able to take care of him,” she said.
Her brush with death spurred her to realize a lifelong dream — that of becoming a mermaid and enchanting young people.
“That I can get up and go again and bring smiles to all these kids has been a gift for me,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
On the “Enchantment of the Seas,” Conti will appear as mermaid Eden Sirène in shows on the ship and on the beach. She will swim with children, sign autographs and pose for photos to bring attention to Scales for Tails.
“The fact that Royal Caribbean is willing to do something on such a large scale is amazing. I’m so looking forward to it,” she said. “My dream, and it’s big, is to sell the boat out.”
The three-night, four-day cruise will leave Oct. 3, 2014, from Port Canaveral and will include roundtrip bus transfers from the Brandon area, goodie bags, a T-shirt and an Enchanted under the Sea private party. Prices start at $411 per person and include a $75 donation per cabin to Scales for Tails.
To sail with the mermaid on the Scales for Tails Cruise, call Kathleen Pohl of Cruise Planners at (813) 767-0094 or email Kathy@cruisesforu.com.
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.