Longboat Key Turtle Watch continued its annual donation to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, made in honor of longtime member Freda Perrotta.
The donation, a 15-year annual tradition, has grown over the years, reaching nearly $15,000 in 2022 and 2023.
Perrotta was key in making Longboat Key Turtle Watch the organization it is today, said President Tim Thurman and Vice President Cyndi Seamon. Perrotta was the reason many of the volunteers got involved, including the president and vice president.
“She was a pretty special lady,” Seamon said.
She was the “turtle lady,” Thurman and Seamon agreed. Everyone on the beach could recognize her, and still talk about her to this day.
She died in September, but the organization’s annual donation to Mote Marine Laboratory has been made in her name for nearly a decade.
“She just was one of those people that, for many, many years, even when she wasn’t doing stuff on the beach, she was still very involved,” Seamon said.
Thurman said when Perrotta could no longer walk the beaches for turtle patrol, she would drive everyone around in her Subaru Outback. Then, when she could no longer walk at all, she handled communications for the organization.
Perrotta helped to found many programs the organization still holds today, said Seamon, like the “Name the Nest” program in which donors can have their name on a turtle nest stake and be informed of the nest’s success.
When Perrotta died in September, her family requested that in lieu of flowers that people make a memorial gesture to Longboat Key Turtle Watch — money that went to this year’s donation to Mote.
The $15,000 donation from Longboat Key Turtle Watch went toward Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, Stranding Investigations Program, Hatchling Hospital, Turtle Hospital and Education Department.
The Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program received a large chunk of the money, at just under $9,000.
This money will fund tagging equipment for sea turtles and replacing stakes that were lost in Hurricane Idalia. Two new GPS units are also in the expenses, which the department said will provide more accurate GPS data.
The hospital requested funds to purchase two large stretchers to transport injured and diseased sea turtles, and the stranding team asked for help in purchasing a new basket and stretcher for their crew.
For the Education Department, $3,500 funded assistance in providing virtual programs, outreach and local field trips as well as a new garden cart to help move supplies.
This year, the donation was around the same amount as last year, which was the largest in the organization's history.
The money was raised by Longboat Key Turtle Watch through T-shirt sales, their “Sponsor a Nest” program, donations to the organization and memorial gestures in honor of Perrotta.