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‘Octifest’ marks 10 years for Sanibel Sea School

By Staff | Mar 9, 2016

The Sanibel Sea School hosts youth programs for educational field trips throughout the year. This group of students from Pine Manor in Fort Myers took in the beach on Sanibel and were treated to a beach walk guided by Sea School counselors this past January. BRIAN WIERIMA

This year’s “Octifest” event hosted by the Sanibel Sea School will be much more than its biggest fundraiser of 2016, but it will also act as a big birthday party on the beach.

The Sanibel Sea School will be celebrating its 10th anniversary and they will be doing it in style under a big-top tent on the Sanibel Causeway Island A Saturday, March 19, and they will be doing so with a whole bunch of their friends.

“We are throwing a birthday party to show the importance of our donors have been for the last 10 years,” said Octifest organizer and Sea School supporter Julie Arnheiter. “We want to show what they are investing in and that we are staying, in fact, we are expanding.”

The funds raised during Octifest help raise the 500-plus scholarships which are used for the young students who otherwise don’t get a chance to experience what the ocean has to offer.

“We are pulling out all the stops this year,” Arnheiter said. “We will have milestone kiosks around the beach to help tell the story of the Sea School. We’ll also have a photo booth set up with marine life props to pose in, such as goggles, snorkels and shark heads.”

The Sea School decided to move its fundraiser from the Community House over five years ago to the Causeway beach, simply because it perfectly entails their mission statement of “improving the ocean’s future, one person at a time.”

Once a month, the Sea School works with several landlocked student programs, either in a classroom environment, or the opportunity to bring the students directly on the Gulf of Mexico’s doorstep.

Students from Pine Manor in Fort Myers and the Gladiolus Learning and Developing Center are two of the programs which benefit from the non-profit Sea School scholarships, which help pay for busing the students in and other expenses which may occur.

Octifest is the main reason these students can take the opportunity to experience the ocean with the teachers from Sea School.

“It also helps keeping the cost low during our summer camps, both for kids and adults,” said Sea School Co-Founder and Executive Director Dr. Bruce Neill. “It makes them more accessible. We have open scholarships, in that we give to anyone who asks for it.”

Other youth programs which have benefitted from the scholarships include Brightest Horizon, Harlem Heights and PACE.

Dr. Neill adds the Sea School has never turned away a child due to financial reasons.

A couple of the featured fundraisers of the evening will be the silent and live auctions, which brings in a bevy of items. A fun auction item up for bid is a pub crawl for 12.

The Sea School will tow a wagon seating 12 and hit various Sanibel establishments, such as Matzaluna, a stop at the beach for cocktails, to Timbers then to Traders for dinner.

There also is a cocktail cruise on a 75-foot yacht available.

“It’s the most beautiful location to have Octifest,” Arnheiter said. “It’s right on the beach and everyone can enjoy the amazing sunsets which take place there.”

There also will be a Give to Give table which guests can specifically donate money for certain items, such as surfboards, paddle boards and other various items.

The Give to Give is also available online for people who can’t attend, but still want to donate. Visit or call 239-472-8585.

Tickets are $150, which includes dinner and drinks, which can be purchased online or by phone at 239-472-8585.