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Sea Isle Environmental Commission volunteer Ron Kovatis, one of the beachcombing tour guides, holds a seashell while talking to a group of children.

By Maddy Vitale

Dedicated volunteers who help make Sea Isle’s beachcombing tours an enlightening and memorable adventure for families, are looking to the public for some support as they continue to grow the city-sponsored program.

On Sunday, Sea Isle City’s Beachcomber Program guides will host their annual “Sara the Turtle Party” fundraiser at the Lobster Loft Restaurant, 42nd Place and the bay from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $35 per person, which includes dinner, drinks, live music, and dancing. An assortment of gift baskets will also be raffled off during the event.

“Our entire community can be proud of Sea Isle’s beachcomber guides, because not only do they entertain people of all ages, they also educate young and old alike about the local eco-system,” said Sea Isle Public Information Officer Katherine Custer, who is also Director of Community Services. “The amount of interesting information they have to share is very impressive, even adults who have spent every summer of their lives on the beach can learn a thing or two from our beachcombers.”

Beachcomber guides, made up of a group of volunteers, take families on a one hour tour of the beach where they discuss shells, the eco-system, marine and wildlife. The cost of the tour is $1 per person and begin in June and go through August. Each child who takes a tour will receive a free Sara the Turtle coloring book and a sand bucket.

Custer explained that the first Beachcomber Program was organized more than a quarter-century ago by Dr. Irene Jameson and a handful of other volunteers. Their goal was the same as it is today, to make people aware of the important role each bit of wildlife plays in the balance of our local environment.

“It is wonderful that today’s beachcomber guides are continuing that legacy now and into the future,” Custer said. “Their tours are a highlight on Sea Isle’s weekly line-up of summer events, and they are to be commended for their efforts.”

Marianne Snyder, co-director with Abby Powell of the Beachcombers Program, said volunteering for the program is very rewarding.

Sea Isle’s Beachcombing Program volunteers are ready for another great season of teaching kids and adults alike, the wonders of the ocean. Seated from left; Marianne Snyder – co-director, Marie Peltier, Abby Powell – co-director. In back from left; Eileen Held, Brenda Dale, Margie Quinlan, Ron Kovatis and Carl Miller. Also pictured is the turtle mascot.

“Families come back year after year,” Snyder said. “They say they took their children and now they are taking their grandchildren. It really is a program that is passing from one generation to the next.”

What really makes it a special activity is how it brings families together, she noted.

“It isn’t a drop off program. The parents stay with the kids,” Snyder explained. “It is nice because you see the interaction with the kids. It is a family experience, rather than just for the children.”

Snyder said they hope to raise at least $3,862, which is the amount they raised last year at the Lobster Loft.

“People can buy tickets at the door, but the best way, so we can give the Lobster Loft an idea of the number of people coming, is to call me or Abby (Powell) and let us know they are coming,” Snyder said. “They can then pay at the door.”

Snyder and Powell have been working for months with their team of volunteers to retain sponsors for the gift baskets. She said people can buy chances and put their tickets in the gift baskets of their choice. There are about 15.

She said the benefit is a success every year, something she owes to support from the community. She commended Custer for doing a fantastic job advertising the event.

Snyder also noted that James Bennett, owner of the Lobster Loft, which is being rebranded and will have a new name May 19 – the day before the benefit – has been very generous with what he charges the group year after year.

Proceeds from Sunday’s event will benefit not only the Beachcomber Program, which is sponsored by the Sea Isle Environmental commission, but also to helping turtles with funds set aside for fencing and nesting box materials, as well as other environmentally-friendly initiatives.

Chairwoman of the Environmental Commission Annette Lombardo said organizers of the Beachcombing Program have worked hand in hand with the commission to make it what it is today.

Lombardo heralded the work of Snyder and Powell and their group of volunteers, as being a labor of love.

“They start in at least March and work so hard,” Lombardo said. “Without volunteers like them there wouldn’t be any program at all. Everyone pitches in. I think that is why the program is so successful.”

The Beachcomber Tours begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays on the 29th Street Beach and Thursdays on the 94th Street Beach from June 26 through Aug. 30 weather permitting.

Sara the Turtle Party is for adults only. For ticket information call Abby Powell at 215-595-4601 or Marianne Snyder at 215-805-9277. For additional information visit www.VISITSICNJ.com.

Sara the Turtle Party benefit for Sea Isle’s Beachcombers Program will be held May 20 at the Lobster Loft restaurant.