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Eric Austin of Venice and Kerri and Wes Carter of Myakka City have started the non-profit Reef Medics. They organized a beach clean-up on Jan. 23.
East County Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 5 years ago

Local couple create a ripple cleaning up reefs

They hope non-profit Reef Medics raises reef awareness.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

A heavy wind whipped sand down the beach on Anna Maria Island as Kerri and Wes Carter picked up blowing pieces of garbage.

The Myakka City couple were living up to their word, that in order to pursue a monstrous goal, they were willing to toil at the very bottom and slowly work their way up,

Along with Venice resident Eric Austin, the trio have started the Reef Medics Foundation, a non-profit aimed toward raising awareness of the sorry state of the world's oceanic reefs. At the end of the rainbow would be an educational facility in the Sarasota or Bradenton area that would hold seminars and training. They estimate the cost of such a facility at $15 million.

Earlier this month, they were working toward that goal one gum wrapper at a time.

"It only takes one drop to create a ripple that goes across the ocean," said Kerri Carter, who works for Raymond James in Lakewood Ranch. "We're extremely passionate about this."

Yes, but is passion enough?

"I do believe that anything is possible," said Wes Carter, who works for North Port Recycling. "It's going to take time."

Austin is an emergency medical technician who had no qualms joining the Carters to chase an overwhelming task.

"Most people don't want to be the ones to get things started," said Austin, who is a diver. "A lot of this involves getting shot down. But I've known Kerri since she was 16 and she doesn't let anything go. She is familiar with non-profits and she and Wes have an unbelievable push to do this.

"They also know you only can take one step at a time."

They proved during the beach cleanup, along with a handful of other volunteers who have joined the cause, they don't mind getting their hands dirty on a cold, nasty day.

Keeping the beaches clean is a key to their cause. Austin noted how a piece of plastic can get sucked out to the gulf and tangled in a reef more than seven miles out. "Fish eat plastic and it kills them," he said. "Any trash here will be blown out into the water. Our overall goal is to get people to understand that reefs are important."

"Reefs are a filtration system for the ocean," Kerri Carter said. "It is where the fish lay their eggs. It is where everything begins."

It was only a two years ago that she wasn't thinking about reefs. Then on Friday the 13th, in January of 2014, she met Wes. Among everything else, he loved her drive to make the world a better place, and he had the perfect cause.

"I've fished my whole life," Wes Carter said. "You can see the desolation of what is going on underwater. When I was a boy, Tampa Bay was blue. I've seen the gulf change in color."

After the two were married, Wes Carter found out that his wife was afraid of the water because she almost drown as a child. Now they spend much of their time talking about the sea.

"The ocean is two-thirds of our Earth," Kerri Walker said. "The damage isn't something that will take a couple of hundred years. It will affect our generation."

Their task is finding members and raising money.

"The only thing it takes to make a difference is persistence," she said. "I am a very persistent person."

She has a spread sheet of contacts and businesses to visit as they look for sponsors and they don't mind making their pitch.

"It wouldn't be the first time a person has called me crazy," Wes Carter said.

Whether they raise $15 million or not, they are prepared to give it as much effort as they can muster.

"I would like to tell you that we would like to be Greenpeace," Wes Carter said. "I don't know. I do know that the loss of worldwide reefs would be catastrophic.

"I don't want to go through life thinking 'I could have changed this, and I didn't.'"

(For more information about Reef Medics, go to

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