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Sea School introduces the ocean to special guests

By Staff | Jul 8, 2015

The Sanibel Sea School hosted guests from the Community Homes and Heart, Inc., of Cape Coral Monday, June 29. The counselors from the Sea School ran three activities for their guests, who are special needs adults living in homes, along with their caretakers. The activities were all out in the water, which was held on the Causeway A beach on the gulf side and included snorkeling, surfboarding and dip netting. BRIAN WIERIMA

It was a day many from the Community Homes and Heart, Inc., of Cape Coral had marked on their calendars and it was a day in which didn’t disappoint.

The Sanibel Sea School hosted 20 special needs adults and 12 caretakers from Community Homes and Hearts to a day of fun on the Causeway A gulfside beach Monday, June 29, where they introduced the beauty and joys of the ocean to the many who had never been exposed to it before.

“Everyone was very excited, because we don’t get the opportunity for beach days very often,” said CHH President/Owner Paula Paquette. “We were exceptionally grateful this opportunity was made for us by the Sanibel Sea School.”

The counselors from the Sea School ran three water activities, which included paddling a surfboard, snorkeling and dip-netting.

For the majority of the members, it was the first time experiencing all of them.

Rachal Cronin (facing camera), has a touching moment with her mother, Lisa, about how fun the day was going for her. BRIAN WIERIMA

“They were all brand new to the ocean,” Paquette said.

Not all the fun was had just by the participants from CHH, but the Sea School counselors enjoyed it as thoroughly.

“This was one of my favorite Sea School days in a long time,” said Sea School director of operations Leah Biery. “All the students were very excited and it was just amazing to work with the people who don’t get out to the beach that often.”

The day started with a big group taking part in surfboarding, which was run by Biery. There was some apprehension by the students, but once the ice was broken, fun was had by all.

“At first, I was a little nervous, because no one was really interested climbing on the surfboard,” Biery said. “We had to hold their hands to help them on the board. But once they started getting used to it, we couldn’t get them off.”

Jeff Spangler has a big smile on his face after riding the surfboard in the Gulf of Mexico. BRIAN WIERIMA

Lisa Cronin, who’s daughter, Rachal, lives in a CHH home, helped organize the day with Biery. Rachal said she enjoyed the surfboarding the most and “couldn’t wait for this day to arrive.”

The Sea School counselors volunteered their time, while the costs were picked up by scholarships, which were earned by the organization’s biggest fundraiser “Octifest”. The event was held this past spring.

People can see firsthand how their donations during Octifest were used on Causeway A beach and the joy it brought the members of the CHH.

“The students were all telling me ‘They can’t wait to tell their mothers!’,” Biery said. “When (the counselors) all got into the van, we said, ‘Wow! That was an amazing experience for us and them.’ It feels good to work with people who do not have these opportunities very often.”

Paquette was certainly grateful for the day and the joy it brought.

Leah Biery and one of the Community Hearts and Homes guests talk about the fun activities the Sanibel Sea School held June 29. BRIAN WIERIMA

“The Sea School counselors were just awesome, it was just a beautiful thing to see,” she said. “We stayed out on the beach until 2 p.m., so I’m sure everyone slept well that night.”

There are future pondering thoughts of making the joint-venture between CHH and the Sea School an annual event, which would be something all the CHH members could mark down on their calendars every single year.

“We are hoping to make it an annual event, it’s truly an amazing time,” Biery said. “I would look forward to it every year, as well.”

The Sanibel Sea School’s Leah Biery instructs Lynda Bevan on how to paddle a surfboard in the water. LISA CRONIN