Float for Life event attracts larger crowd for second annual event
BY MEGHAN McCOY
Seventy-five individuals reunited with the ocean on Fort Myers Beach while floating on their backs in an effort for them to fall in love with the water, which in turn will encourage them to become stewards of the ocean.
“Two years ago Roy and I moved to Palm City on the east coast of Florida,” Shelley Lynch said. “The devastation of the waters and the death of marine life were so painful for us. We felt so powerless, so we decided we wanted to be apart of the solution. One day we said, ‘you know we float people for a living, let’s float them for our oceans.'”
That thought ignited the inaugural Float for Life event last year on Fort Myers Beach.
A quote from Mother Theresa, “If you ask me to march against something I won’t join you. If you ask me to march for something I will be there,” made the thought into reality. The first event attracted 55 people within six months of promoting the event last year.
“We are here to float for our waters, marine life, for our eco system that supports us and gives so much to us,” Lynch told the 75 participants this year through tearful eyes. “This topic is so emotional and passionate for me that I want to cry because it is so important.”
Lynch grew up on the Florida coast in a little town when kids were able to roam freely. She spent countless hours on the beach, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the intercostal waters that were lined with massive mangroves that were used to play make believe house.
“It was really where I fell in love with the ocean,” Lynch said. “I feel like it was my third parent. It was my solace.”
Her husband, Roy Desjarlais grew up on the canals of Cape Coral where he spent countless hours finding ways to be in or near the water.
“The love of the water became ingrained very early,” he said. “So that is really the heart and passion for me when it comes to Float for Life. We are both therapist wanting to help people.”
The participants separated into groups of three and headed for the ocean near Pink Shell Resort and Marina Sunday, July 12. Each member of the group floated for 10 minutes while the other two group members provided assistance with their head and legs.
“We want things to be on a really positive note when you connect with the water. When you are positive, when you have that connection, you tend to love things and care for things,” Desjarlais said.
Fort Myers resident Paula Reiss attended the event for the first time this year because Jacques Cousteau has had a major impact on her life. She said she met him many years ago, which resulted in scuba diving and being actively involved with water quality issues.
“It was a very interesting experience,” she said of floating. “You don’t feel like anything is going on around you until you go vertical.”
Once Reiss went from the horizontal to vertical position she said it resembled the “feeling you get when you wake from a good sleep.”
Other participants described their experience as feeling safe, incredibly peaceful and it allowed them to tune into how their body was feeling. Another participant said “the rough waves out there weren’t ideal, but it’s kind of representative of life in a way.”
Guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, said it was really exciting for her to see everyone floating and enjoying the ocean.
“I hope that we will take something away from this day and that will be some renewed conviction that everything you do matters and every single choice you make has a consequence . . . that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she said.
In addition to participants, the Float for Life event also attracted many volunteers that assisted before, during and after the festivities.
Edie Gleason, a Sanibel resident, said she wanted to volunteer because she loves the ocean and believes in the importance and connection between the health of the water, environment and everyone’s actions.
“I encourage people to think and support government issues,” she said.
The event’s beneficiary this year was the Sanibel Sea School, which resulted in a presentation from Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill. He shared with the crowd that the Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future one person at a time through marine conservation and education.
“Very quickly we are all going to realize that conservation is the true economic way to do things. It is the most cost effective way to do things in the future,” Neill said. “Humans don’t change our behavior based on data. We don’t read numbers and say ‘oh geez, I shouldn’t be doing that.’ We change our behavior based on emotions. At the very root of conservation is an emotional attachment to that thing.”
He classified the work between Lynch, Desjarlais, guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau and the Sanibel Sea Schools as a perfect union.
“It is conservation that is hooked to an emotional content of how we feel about the environment that sustains us,” Neill said.
Float for Life is similar to the Sanibel Sea School’s soul floats, which also connects individuals with the ocean.
“We like to cover our chests and we tend to not open our chest because it tends to leave us vulnerable,” Neill said. “So when we lie on the ocean and open our arms to allow us to float . . . when we open our arms and we open our chest something magical happens. We become reunited with the ocean and not only do we heal ourselves, we reinvigorate the love for the ocean.”
One of the main messages participants took away from the event was how to become better stewards of the water.
“To me what that means is take personal responsibility for our immediate environment,” Desjarlais said. “Embrace personal stewardship and create a new habit or embrace the old one and let that ripple out.”
Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.