FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Just like humans need state of the art technology to address surgical procedures and critical care needs, team members at the UF Whitney Laboratory Sea Turtle Hospital prepare for patients who may come in needing urgent care in much the same way.

With the team accepting a check for $12,450 on Tuesday, November 1, Cat Eastman, program manager for the UF Whitney Lab’s Sea Turtle Hospital says funds raised from this year’s Taste of the Fun Coast will help purchase some of the needed equipment to help care for their patients, starting with ventilators and an electrocautery tool.

“Things on our wish list are (an) electrocautery for surgery is number one on list. A ventilator, oxygen and condenser to help provide all the intensive care,” said Eastman. “Without a mechanical ventilator, that means every minute and a half, staff are manually bagging an animal. Some times that can be 12 hours. Any kind of help will help our critical patients.”

As the turtle population increases in the local estuaries, so does the number of turtles who need care. The sea turtle hospital focuses not only on emergency care needs like propeller strikes, fishing line and hooks, and respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, but research related to the fibropapilomatosis or FP tumor disease, where it’s treated like a cancer with surgical removal followed by intensive rehabilitation.

“It’s exciting because more turtles is great, but it also means that you need more care,” she said. “Unfortunately there’s a direct, manmade aspect to the care we’re providing, and then also some of the research is sort of showing this tumor disease is human impact as well.”

The annual benefit has provided funding for the Sea Turtle Hospital for the past several years, with donors’ generosity on full display through sponsorships and dedicated support.

Jessica Long, Senior Director of Advancement for the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory says each donation is critical to helping sustain the sea turtle hospital’s program and operations.

“This funding, which has increased by 20 percent this year, really helps us take care of our turtles, which have increased over the last several years. We’ve seen huge amounts of turtles coming into our hospital and that is the reason we’re expanding. This helps us feed our turtles, take care of them, have the care they need to get healthy enough to get back out into their environment. So we really appreciate it,” said Long.

Organized by Flagler Broadcasting’s director of sales, Kirk Keller, with the help of community partners like Coastal Cloud, the Quantum Family of Businesses, Greg Lynn Jewelers, TAG Ventures Real Estate, and Gary Yeomans Lincoln, the Flagler Broadcasting President and CEO David Ayres says it’s one of the feel good events that everyone can enjoy while providing more exposure to the sip and sample crowd.

“Our goal was to beat last year’s donation and we did,” shared Ayres enthusiastically. “We can’t thank our sponsors enough. It was a great team effort and a lot of people came out and learned about the sea turtle hospital and why it’s important to support the project.”

Coastal Cloud President Sara Hale has a love for the Sea Turtle Hospital’s most vulnerable patients and not only supports the annual benefit fundraiser, but volunteers her time to the facility.

“We have been a sponsor of this event since it started and we just believe strongly in the sea turtle hospital and also Flagler County and the Hammock Beach Resort,” she said.

Staged at the picturesque Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa, sales and marketing director Kerry Mitruska says the seaside resort is committed to supporting community causes and appreciates the opportunity to host the Taste of the Fun Coast.

“First of all it’s a really good cause. We live here on the ocean, so any type of conservation, beach conservation or animal preservation is really important to us as residents and good citizens,” said Mitruska.

“We’re happy to be able to host the event and have a spot that works for everyone and really showcase the resort to the community. We feel it’s a great cause that we like to be involved with.”