Palm Coast, FL – Breaking away for just a few brief moments from the region’s most delicate patients, members of the UF Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience were on hand to receive the proceeds of last week’s Taste of the Fun Coast event, Thursday morning.

Hosted at the Hammock Beach Resort, the collaboration between the resort property, Flagler Broadcasting and Coastal Cloud netted the growing sea turtle hospital $10,585, to help with needed medical care for the precious sea turtles.

Kerry Mitruska, director of sales and marketing for the Hammock Beach Resort said they enjoy partnering and supporting the community.

“It’s a great event for us. I think it’s the fourth year we’ve hosted the event, and every year we’ve been able to raise more money for a wonderful cause,” said Mitruska.

“We’re all Flagler County residents, so we protect the beach and the environment. This really is a great cause, and we’re happy to participate and see this event grow every year.”

Surpassing last year’s fundraising total, Jessica Long, senior director of advancement for the UF Whitney Laboratory was grateful to receive the donation and for the awareness the annual Taste of the Fun Coast provides for the facility.

It’s been their busiest year ever with about 90 patients coming through the facility in addition to a triple digit number of wash backs – fledgling sea turtles swept back to shore after a long journey to the Gulf Stream, and cared for the facility’s staff until their return to the sea.

“It’s amazing support, especially due to having to ramp down a lot of our public events and revenue. Being able to have the community come out and support us through this event has been critical,” said Long of the direct care dollars.

“Coastal Cloud and their leadership has been a really critical part of the board of trustees at the Whitney Laboratory and the University of Florida. They helped connect us to this event so that has been really essential for us and helped get the word out about the sea turtle hospital,” she said.

Sara Hale at UF Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience.

Building on private dollars raised from the community and funding allocated by state in the 2021-22 budget for $16.5 million, the UF Sea Turtle Hospital is in the midst of a $28.5 million upgrade for the research institute and expansion effort, according to Long.

“We need it in general because we’re in Florida, and we’re on the coast. We do marine research that’s really critical to understanding the conservation needs as well as the development needs of our area.”

“We, of course, want to build off of our sea turtle hospital program that has been full since pretty much the day we opened. We also want to make it more accessible to the public and that is part of the overall plan for the sea turtle hospital and marine research institute.”

The upgrades will also help the growing graduate program and more than 20 students engaged in the research process through the University of Florida.

Greg Lynn and David Ayres catch up during the annual Taste of the Fun Coast event at the Hammock Beach Resort to benefit the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Hospital, on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

The Sea Turtle Hospital has captured the hearts of people around the world and become a shared project championed by the community, business leaders and state legislators.

“It was the best year yet,” said David Ayres, vice president and general manager for Flagler Broadcasting of the annual Taste of the Fun Coast fundraising event.

“It’s just such a great thing to have in the community and to have the community support it.”

Featured Photo: Go Team! Community leaders have made the UF Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience a priority project through fundraisers like the annual Taste of the Fun Coast at Hammock Beach Resort. From left, David Ayres, Vice President and General Manager for Flagler Broadcasting, Kerry Mitruska, Director of Sales & Marketing for Hammock Beach Resort and Sara Hale, Managing Partner for Coastal Cloud, join UF Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience Senior Director of Advancement Jessica Long and Sea Turtle Hospital Manager Devon Ramia for the check presentation on Thursday, November 4, 2021 at Hammock Beach Resort.