By MEGHAN McCOY
An evening by the water, complete with a catered dinner, will be had on the Sanibel Island Causeway next month to raise money for the youngsters, so every child has an opportunity to learn about the ocean.
Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum lit candles during last year’s celebration.
"This is the largest event that we do all year. This is what helps raise money for scholarships. This is to raise money for the kids and not just the kids that come to camp. We do a lot of landlocked kids - the Hendry County, the PACE Girls, the Heights Foundation," Sanibel Sea School Director of Development Chrissy Basturk said. "It's the largest influx of funds for that yearly. It is a really important night. To me what we do that night will really help defray a lot of those costs."
The Sanibel Sea School, she said does not say no to anybody. Those who need assistance with paying for tuition receive the help.
"My kids have been here since day one. I don't know if people really realize the giving back. The scholarships really help whether it's an afternoon class, or a week of camp, or the kids coming out and getting out of their schools doing an outreach with us," Basturk said. "It's a great bonding experience for the kids because a lot of kids don't just come once."
This year the 11th annual celebration will take place Saturday, April 8, on Causeway Island A under the Octifest Tent. Cocktails will be served at 6:30 p.m., followed by sunset, dinner and presentations. Tickets are $150 a person and can be purchased by visiting www.octifest.org, or by calling (239) 472-8585.
She said people show up earlier because they want to get their drinks and snacks and start having a good time.
"Typically what happens is you come in, you're greeted and there is a silent auction, there is a gift to give and people are mulling about and talking. Then we end the silent auction and go into a seated dinner, which is a catered seated dinner," she said.
The gift to give, Basturk explained as things the Sanibel Sea School needs mostly for educational purposes. She said a couple of their educators will be on-hand to explain the need for the items.
Sanibel Sea School Executive Director and Co-Founder Dr. Bruce Neill will also offer a presentation, and Basturk said in past years they have had trivia.
"People get into it and we toss out some prizes," Basturk said.
The festivities also include a live auction, which includes a scavenger hunt, and a land based crawl.
She said they will have their trailer, which will be decorated, on the causeway. Attendees will start at one restaurant having appetizers, and end at another before the seated dinner.
"It's a lot of fun because people can get a couple of groups together and friends and have a nice time," Basturk said.
The event originally started at the Sanibel Community House, but since the Sanibel Sea School is about being outside and near the water, the annual event moved to the Causeway.
"We are the first group that actually got approval, we actually got grandfathered in, to do something on the causeway," Basturk said. "It really made sense to be out by the water."
Julie and Tim O'Neill are the honorary co-chairs of the event this year. She said they have been involved with the Sanibel Sea School since day one.
"Their grandkids have been coming for years and they are still involved," Basturk said. "They really want to help raise the money for scholarships and for other kids to come too. They are both really passionate about giving back to the local Sanibel community."