Five-year old Astraea wished to see a sea turtle. Specifically, she wanted to see baby sea turtles go into the ocean. This little girl has been through a lot, fighting leukemia and a year out of treatment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW) was determined to make her wish come true. Her family had heard about Gumbo Limbo Nature Center through a friend, so MAW contacted GLNC to grant her wish! Astraea, along with her 2-year old sister Verona, her mom, and a family friend, got a tour of Gumbo Limbo packed with sea turtles!
Before the cross-country journey even began, they got a head start on learning about sea turtle thanks to the City of Boca Raton’s Library Services, who sent a number of books to Astraea in advance of her trip. After a long day of travel and a night’s rest, the family headed to Gumbo Limbo.
First stop was the Shipwreck Tank, where resident green sea turtle, Carr, swam by and showed off his weights (Carr has a buoyancy issue and has weight permanently attached to his shell that allows him to swim freely). Whiptail stingray “Maui” also put on a show, splashing around while eating her lunch. Off to the shallow tanks, where loggerhead sea turtle Neptune waved “hi!” The FAU (Florida Atlantic University) Gallery had a big surprise waiting; after a tour of the gallery, graduate student Boris brought a loggerhead hatchling up to the gallery for an up close and personal visit with Astraea.
The next stop was the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility for a behind-the-scenes tour and to meet several sea turtle patients. Another surprise was in store: sub-adult loggerhead Lighting is healthy and ready to be released, and Astraea and her family are invited to attend!
The visit wrapped up the following evening with a special, private sea turtle hatchling release just for Astraea. Before the release however, another surprise was in store….the Friends of Gumbo Limbo presented both Astraea and her sister with a gift bag of sea turtle goodies from the gift store to bring home with them and always remember their trip to Gumbo Limbo! Before we headed to the beach, Astraea spent a little time with the 27 loggerhead and 6 green hatchlings as they began to wake up from their day-long nap. And as they all began to move around energetically, we knew it was time. We headed to the beach and as the turtles were placed in the sand to begin their journey to the ocean, Astraea and family watched with excitement! All 33 hatchlings made it to the ocean as Astraea stood onshore, waved goodbye and shouted ‘good luck!’