The inspiration for A Soldier’s Child Birthday Foundation occurred as Daryl Mackin prepared for his 6-year-old son’s birthday party and came to the realization he was so caught up in the logistics of the party planning he lost sight of the joy in the moment.
He glanced at photos on his wall of two fallen soldiers whose sons will never know the joy of a birthday party planned by their dads. Mackin formed the foundation as a way to stand by the children of the military men and women who paid the ultimate price while protecting our lives and the freedom of our country.
At the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, shells serve many purposes. Recently more than 400 apple and lace murex snails were forwarded to Makin, president of the A Soldier’s Child Birthday Foundation (ASC).
"When foundation president Daryl Mackin, approached us with his request for shells, I immediately started recruiting shell museum donors needed to fill the request," said Dr. Jose H. Leal, director/curator for the shell museum.
A murex shell is included in birthday packages. The intent is to make a connection between these children and royalty, who historically have used garments dyed with the purple dyes from murex snails.
"We sent shells both from the museum educational collection and shells donated by Amy Tripp, from Marco Island," said Leal.
Foundation benefits are made available to children 19 years of age or younger, whose parent lost his or her life on active duty. ASC keeps the legacy of the soldier alive by celebrating the birthday of his or her children. Recipients will receive a gift from ASC on each birthday from the foundation.
"I believe that ASC is a very worthy cause, providing support to children who lost a parent serving on active military duty," said Leal. "The museum embraced the cause and will be sending more shells in the near future."
To honor soldiers and their families, the museum is offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families until Labor Day. The museum has joined more than 1,300 museums around the country in the Blue Star Museum partnership this summer. Blue Star Museums is a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star families and the participating museums.
"We are so thankful for the members of the military who protect us, our country and our freedoms, and this is just a small way we can show our appreciation," said Leal.
This marks the second summer the shell museum has participated in the Blue Star program. Last year, several military families from Lee County, as well as those vacationing in the area, took advantage of the opportunity to visit the museum free of charge.
"We invite local military families and those visiting our area to enjoy a complimentary day of learning about mollusks and the shells they make at our museum," Leal added.
During this summer season, the museum is a "cool" place to enjoy ongoing workshops or its summer camp that holds something for everyone. Workshops include a live tank demonstration; see live mollusks up close and personal. Observe a fighting conch use its foot for locomotion; watch a lightening welk slam shut its trap door for protection and view scallops as they zip across the tank with their jet propulsion skills. This workshop is at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Shelling 101: Everything you wanted to know about mollusks and the shell they make will teach participants how to find, clean and pack shells for safe travel. Discover how mollusks are classified into families and classes, as well as what they eat, how they reproduce, their means of locomotion and how they protect themselves. This workshop is from 2:30 to 3 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday.
Walk the beach with the experts – a free family beach walk. Field experts will teach this workshop’s participants how to find and identify shells. Learn what mollusks eat, how they move and the environment they live in. Participants will meet at Gulfside City Park/Algiers Beach on Sanibel at 9 a.m. June 28 and weekly on Thursdays from June 30 through Aug. 11. The walk will last about an hour. This workshop is in collaboration with J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
All workshops are free with the purchase of a museum admission ticket. For questions related to the schedule of summer workshops at the museum, call Diane Thomas, public program specialist, at 395-2233.
This year’s summer camp program offers a variety of activities – from puzzle construction to designing a parade float for the Independence Day parade. Children ages 6 to 9 is invited to enjoy an out of shell experience during mollusk camp. Discover where mollusks around the world live, especially mollusks found on Sanibel. Campers will make hand puppets, write their own puppet play and perform it with their fellow campers. Puzzles and crafts will be created, as the children learn about the world of mollusks and their many habitats. The camp is held from 9 a.m. to noon June 20-24 at a cost of $64.
From June 27 through July 1, the museum and campers will "shell-e-brate" Sanibel during mollusks on parade camp. Children ages 7 to 12 will create a gigantic papier-mache shell for Sanibel’s Fourth of July Parade. Campers will design their own mollusk costume and sandwich board outfit for the parade. Hats, T-shirts and socks will be decorated to go along with their mollusk outfit. Kids will also learn about these soft-bodied invertebrates, the original shell makers. This camp will run from 9 a.m. to noon and cost is $65.
For more information on the museum’s summer camps, contact Diane Orvis Thomas at 395-2233.
In addition, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum invites families to join its staff on a trip to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota this summer. Participants will ride a bus to the laboratory, where will enjoy the day learning about the marine environment and its inhabitants.
Mote provides an opportunity to explore the secrets of the sea through touch pools, viewable working labs and high-tech interactive exhibits that showcase the world-renowned research of Mote. Visitors may view sharks, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles, along with more than 100 others species of marine life.
The trip is planned for July 16, and reservations are now available. The bus will leave the shell museum at 8 a.m. and return about 5 p.m. The cost is $50 for adults and $48 for children, which includes the bus transportation and admission into Mote.
"Considering the price of gasoline, this trips is a cost-effective way for families to spend the day learning about the Florida environment," said Diane Thomas. "We are a proud partner with Mote Marine for a fun educational opportunity and look forward to sharing the day with families. Mollusks are an important part of the marine environment, which is why we appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the creatures who share the waters with mollusks and they shells they make."
During the Mote visit, participants will glean information about the Dolphin Bay project; enjoy a tour of the Marine Mammals Centers to see dolphins, manatees and turtles; view the laboratory’s live mollusk exhibit; hear a presentation about sharks; and a take a tour of the main aquarium.
Whether you are active military personnel, a school-age child or a family looking for ways to spend this summer season, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is the place to "chill."
Eli Budd, Captain with the JROTC at Fort Myers High School, stands in the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum where active military personnel and their familes can enjoy a day of fun and education at no charge.
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road
9 a.m. to noon, June 20-24
Mollusk camp (ages 6-9)
9 a.m. to noon June 27 to July 1
Mollusks on Parade (ages 7-12)
3 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays
Live Tank Demonstration
2:30 to 3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays
Shelling 101: Everything you wanted to know
9 a.m. June 28, weekly on Thursdays June 30 through Aug. 30
Walk the beach with the experts: Free family beach walks