Scallopalooza fundraiser ‘clamtastic’

Sarasota Bay Watch board member Steve Martin, his wife, Laura, and daughter Ellie, a student board member, share the fun at the recent fundraiser at the Sarasota Yacht Club. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Sarasota Bay Watch’s annual fundraiser, Scallopalooza, on Saturday, Sept. 23 was once again a big success. SBW is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and the occasion brought together friends, partners, sponsors and supporters who have an interest in a healthy bay. The event, held at the Sarasota Yacht Club, was a sellout. The gala featured a silent auction and a sumptuous feast which included sustainably farmed clams for an appetizer.  Organizations and partners included the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Reef In local Innovations, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Police Department, Reef Ball Foundation, Gulf Shellfish Institute, The Chiles Group restaurants, Scuba Quest, Bay Shellfish Company, Two Docks Shellfish and many more.

Notable guest speakers included Jon Thaxton, Stevie Freeman-Montes and Sandy Gilbert.  Vice President for Community Investment of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and a longtime local resident Jon Thaxton shared fascinating stories of Sarasota’s coastal heritage. City of Sarasota Sustainability Manager Stevie Freeman-Montes spoke about building a sustainable community. Sandy Gilbert, the executive director of START, spoke of SBW’s decade of work improving the bay and announced a $3,000 grant as a match challenge to double the impact of donations from attendees.

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation and individual donor Peter Powers each added $1,000 to the match challenge, bringing the challenge total to $5,000. Attendees also rose to the challenge, helping SBW raise enough funds to support a year’s worth of volunteer events and continue its scallop and clam restoration programs.

Finn Johnson, a Pine View School junior and a SBW student board member, addressed the audience, sharing highlights of SBW’s 10 years of service restoring and protecting the bay. Over the past decade SBW has hosted annual scallop searches, bay island restorations, removed fishing line from bird rookeries and conducted underwater diver-based cleanups, as well as promoting marine habitat creation, developing youth leadership opportunities and engaging in community outreach. SBW’s scallop restoration program has resulted in over 100 million larvae being released into the bay and a new restoration program is growing a quarter of a million southern hard-shell clams to help repopulate Sarasota Bay.

These are remarkable accomplishments for an all-volunteer group that depends primarily on small local donations of expertise, time, materials and funds. The last decade has proved that seemingly impossible objectives can be reached when a community pulls together. You can join the effort to restore and protect our irreplaceable marine environment by participating and making an online donation here.