String of releases kicks off season at Surf City turtle hospital

Padi release

Padi was sent back to sea on June 1 with a group of turtles released over multiple days after treatment and recovery at Surf City’s Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The new center, located on the mainland, is open five days a week for tours.

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 12:02 PM.

We’re officially open for the summer! And for five consecutive days we celebrated in “grand” style.

On May 31, supporters, volunteers, interns and externs filled our lawn in anticipation of the official opening ceremony. After the presentation of the colors by the 2nd Division Marine Color Guard, center director Jean Beasley spoke of our continuing commitment to our main mission (rescue, rehabilitate, release) and how far we have come from the day that the first turtle was turned over to her for care. So many things have changed over the years, but even on the worst days, with multiple sick and critically injured turtles pouring through our doors, we rallied. We worked tirelessly, and always with privately donated funds, to give our patients the best and most advanced care available. For 16 years our long-term volunteers shared less than 1,000 square feet of space with up to 50 turtles at one time. It was crowded, but somehow we all worked side-by-side, or more accurately, on top of each other, sans drama. We focused on what really mattered: the turtles. Led by Jean, we all reaffirmed our continuing commitment to the work that we have loved for so many years.

Before the ribbon cutting, Jean’s two sons, Barney and Kevin, presented their mom with a wonderful plaque honoring her and the memory of their sister, Karen. Karen’s passion for the preservation of sea turtles lit the fire, and Jean keeps it flaming hot with her complete and total commitment to the cause that was so central to Karen’s life. On a lighter note, the Board of Directors had a little gift of its own for their leader: a director’s chair with “Jean Beasley, Director” embroidered on the back. Lest we ever forget who’s on first all we have to do is “talk to the chair!” Surf City Mayor Zander Guy and representatives of the Topsail Chamber then joined the board at the front of the building where the ribbon cutting officially opened our decade-plus dream that was now a reality.

But the party wasn’t over. On Sunday, while our volunteers and friends were sharing turtle lore over a light breakfast at the Welcome Center, healthy turtles were giving one last wave of a flipper to their hospital bed as they were settled onto laps and into trucks for the trip across the bridge.

A crowd had gathered on shore, eagerly anticipating the stars of the day. Cheers went up as the first turtle “Padi,” one of our big gals, crested the dunes. Borne like a queen on her throne, Padi was set down close to the surf. That lady quickly demonstrated the power of only three flippers when she heard the song of the sea; she was off. Close behind her were a slew of happy-to-be-home loggerheads, greens and Kemps.

Monday was a repeat performance with more turtles going home, including long-term patient “Boater.” This time Mother Ocean added a bit of excitement to the process by kicking up some pretty mean surf. We almost lost one of our munchkin volunteers when she and her turtle were engulfed by a big wave. When you visit our gift shop, ask Anita to tell you about her day at the beach!

Tuesday, repeat the process. We’re happy to report that “Lefty has finally left the building!” The world’s biggest almost- 6-year-old loggerhead is out on his own, and we have no idea what kind of mischief he’s going to get into. He’s only known humans since he came to us as a few-days-old hatchling. But we sent him out fat, with a lot of instructions, and with another round of loggerheads, greens and Kemps on his (gigantic) tail.

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