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Nature Park Foundation fundraiser Dec. 5

By Staff | Nov 23, 2015

For nearly a decade the Nature Park Environmental Education Foundation has brought more than 16,000 Lee County students to the Shell Factory & Nature Park for a day of seeing some of the most exotic and rare animals in the world.

On Saturday, Dec. 5, the Shell Factory will hold its annual fundraising event in the Dolphin Room at Capt’n Fishbones Seafood Grill.

The event, which will have a nautical Christmas theme, will feature live and silent auctions, dinner and great entertainment. Tickets are $100 and all proceeds will go toward continuing the paid bus trips to the park as well as continued upkeep on the Nature Park and, perhaps, the purchase of new animals.

“All the money goes to the Nature Park. There are no administrative costs. The park attendance is up 24 percent and revenue is up 35 percent,” said Rick Tupper, CFO and marketing director at the Shell Factory. “We have refurbished the gator habitat, bought a new fishing cat and are redoing it.”

Pam Cronin, who owns the Shell Factory with her husband, Tom, said the nonprofit foundation is a source to teach kids environmental education.

“Its mission is to have a facility and teachers so we can build the environmental education aspects of the Nature Park,” Cronin said. “We’re ready to have someone run the field trips. We were using staff members, but it’s become so successful we’re going to bring someone in to direct it.”

Last year’s event raised around $30,000, with hopes to at least raise as much this year. The event has been dialed down in recent years as opposed to in previous years when it was held at Harborside.

This year’s event is expected to bring in 160 people who are very passionate about helping the Nature Park. Nearly half the tickets are already sold.

The auctions are what bring in the majority of the money, and this event will have no shortage of great items up for bid.

They include his-and-her Rolex watches, a trip to Key West and numerous silent auction items that focus on Christmas giving.

“If you purchase something from the silent auction and you want to use it as a holiday gift, someone will wrap it for you and get it ready,” Cronin said. “You’re giving twice, to the foundation and your loved one.”

The entertainment will be provided by The Gatlins, who are cousins of the Gatlin Brothers, and will give those in attendance an interactive experience, and some of the Nature Park animals will be brought in, especially birds, of which Tupper said many have been donated.

“We have parrots who didn’t have a home that have been donated. Our bird population is at an all-time high,” Tupper said.

For more information, call the Shell Factory at 995-2141 or go to www.shellfactory.com.