Dawn was born on April 16, 1969 into a large family of Irish-Italian descent. She was the youngest of Charles and Marion LoVerde's six children. Dawn spent her childhood in Cedar Lake, Indiana. At a young age, she was captivated by the Shamu Show at Seaworld and developed a passion for marine life. Dawn continued to visit SeaWorld and her fascination with marine animals grew with each new experience. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Dawn never hesitated to say, “I want to work at SeaWorld and train Shamu.”
Dawn attended Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana, where she was a motivated student with a desire to be involved in a variety of activities. She was a cheerleader, a member of the golf team, student-body president, and the homecoming queen. For her sixteenth birthday, while most girls were getting new clothes or jewelry, her family adopted a whale in her name and she could not have been more excited.
Dawn went on to attend the University of South Carolina, where she majored in Psychology with a minor in Biology. She joined the dance team and became an active member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Dawn loved the southern lifestyle and the many friendships she developed there.
To begin her professional journey, Dawn accepted a position at the Six Flags amusement park in New Jersey. There, she cared for, trained, and performed in shows with sea lions and dolphins. Her dedication to the animals in her care was exemplary and she even helped provide around the clock care for a new sea lion pup.
In 1994, Dawn’s dream of working at SeaWorld became a reality. She started out at the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium. To see the joy in Dawn’s eyes while she performed was priceless.
In 1996, Dawn married the love of her life, Scott Brancheau, who was a skier at SeaWorld. Dawn and Scott made their home in St. Cloud, where they graciously welcomed friends and family members. Dawn and Scott had two chocolate labs, Maggie and Ruger, that they cherished dearly.
That same year, Dawn was transferred to Shamu Stadium where she instantly bonded with the orcas. Her passion for the job was always evident by the smile on her face. During the next 14 years, Dawn worked hard to become one of the best and most experienced trainers in her field.
In addition to her work as a trainer, Dawn also became the face of SeaWorld. Over the years, she appeared on billboards around the world, a large mural at the Orlando International Airport, on a Budweiser beer bottle, and on many other promotional materials. She also appeared live on House Hunters, Wheel of Fortune, and FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman. Dawn was always willing to share her knowledge and love of the orcas with new audiences.
On February 24, 2010, Dawn left this world doing what she loved. While the news media focused on the death of a SeaWorld trainer, her family and friends were mourning the loss of a truly inspirational woman. Dawn lived each day to the fullest and was always looking for ways to brighten someone’s day through a kind and loving act. Whether you were a family member, a friend, or a total stranger, Dawn would always make you feel special.