Turtle Watch Wednesday returns

Turtle Watch Wednesday returns
Brian Mathae, Sharon Hoatland and Suzi Fox hope to repeat or exceed the success of last year’s Turtle Watch Wednesday fundraiser. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – A Paradise Realty and Vacation Rentals and Hurricane Hanks are following up last year’s fundraising efforts with this year’s Second Annual Turtle Watch Wednesday fundraiser.

Taking place Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hurricane Hanks, 5346 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, Turtle Watch Wednesday will again benefit the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring organization. J & J Graphics and The Anna Maria Island Sun are serving as co-sponsors.

Last year’s inaugural Turtle Watch Wednesday fundraiser coincided with the Island’s red tide recovery efforts and raised more than $3,000 for the Turtle Watch organization.

Turtle Watch Wednesday returns
J & J Graphics is assisting with the promotional efforts that include this event poster. – Submitted

As was the case last year, the first 75 guests greeted by an A Paradise team member will receive a free drink ticket. Hurricane Hanks will offer 50 percent discounts on appetizers and will donate $1 for every food and drink item sold during the event.

The fundraising activities will include a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and specially designed T-shirts that will be available for a $20 donation.

To donate silent auction items or get more information, please call Sharon Hoatland at 941-729-2381.

Lighting the way

When discussing the upcoming event, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Executive Director Suzi Fox said, “We are concentrating funding at this time to go into lighting retrofits and community outreach. Those are our two main focuses for fundraisers for the rest of this year.”

The outreach efforts include developing new graphics for the educational materials distributed each spring in preparation for the sea turtle nesting season that begins May 1 and ends Oct. 31.

“The biggest problem we have with sea turtles is lighting. It directs the hatchlings away from the beach and it deters the mothers from nesting,” Fox said.

Fox said she frequently receives calls from property owners who want to buy turtle-friendly bulbs and fixtures but have a hard time finding them.

“We encourage them to go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website and visit the turtle lighting pages,” Fox said, where turtle lighting guidelines, specifications and detailed ordering information can be found.

“They can order fixtures and bulbs there and I’m going to stock them here too. If they can pay us back, that’s great. If not, maybe we can do a 50/50 cost-sharing? The best thing for me to do is to order them and people can stop here can get them at our cost – and you don’t have to pay sales tax because we’re a non-profit,” Fox said.

Fox encourages people to light their beachfront properties with turtle-friendly lighting as opposed to not lighting them at all, and she can also provide additional insight on the various types and colors of turtle-friendly bulbs and fixtures sold by local retailers. For more information, contact Fox at 941-778-5638 or visit the Turtle Watch website.

Eliminating plastics

Turtle Watch will also be campaigning for local stores, restaurants and other Island businesses to eliminate or reduce their use of single-use plastic bags.

“One thing we are really focusing on this year is getting rid of plastics and one of our main focuses is going to be plastic bags. Any businesses that are giving out plastics, we’d like them to stop. We moved mountains with our plastic straw campaign last year and phase two is we want people to start using reusable bags,” Fox said.

As part of this campaign, J & J graphics will be printing reusable cloth bags that Turtle Watch can then share with local businesses.

Community’s embrace

Working with Hurricane Hanks owner Brian Mathae, A Paradise Realty and Vacation Rentals Marketing and Public Relations Director Sharon Hoatland is again doing much of the planning for this year’s Turtle Watch Wednesday event.

Fox said she greatly appreciates the support Hurricane Hanks, A Paradise, J & J Graphics and the general public provide the Turtle Watch organization.

Turtle Watch Wednesday returns
Turtle Watch Wednesday will take place at Hurricane Hanks in Holmes Beach. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

“I didn’t know Sharon and Brian until last year and they’ve become dear friends. I’m overwhelmed by the way they’ve encouraged the community to put their arms around Turtle Watch. And J & J Graphics has been doing business with Turtle Watch for the past 20 years,” Fox said.

“I know everyone wants to help us, but we work under state-certified guidelines so we can’t let just anyone help with the nests. But when people come to this event, they feel like they’re giving back to Turtle Watch just by showing up. I love it,” Fox said.