As the sun slipped below the horizon behind the Guana River on Sept. 28, Friends of the GTM Reserve and other supporters gathered for the ninth annual Oceanwise fundraiser to celebrate GTM’s 20 years designated as a National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Friends of GTM Reserve is the nonprofit local citizen organization that provides support to the GTM and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
"On August 19, 1999, GTM Research Reserve was designated the24th National Estuarine Research Reserve," said Ellen Leroy-Reed, executive director of Friends of the GTM Reserve. "As the citizen organization that supports the Reserve's education, research and stewardship programs, we are excited about celebrating this historic occasion as part of this year's fundraiser!"
The signature event featured area restaurants serving sustainable seafood and other locally-sourced dishes, a silent auction, estuary games, entertainment and a breathtaking view of the sun setting over the Guana River. Guests were treated to fine wine and beer sponsored by Bold City Brewery.
Tom and Cynthia Robinson have attended more than one Oceanwise event. He is a volunteer and they are both Friends of the GTM.
“We love kids, dogs and the environment,” Cynthia Robinson said. “We want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
A silent auction kicked off the evening with popular items including weekend stay packages, spa days and artwork. For the third year, artist Shannon Dunnigan created custom artwork for Oceanwise. Her watercolor, “Oysters,” was available as a limited edition, signed and framed giclee. Another popular auction item was a colorful sea turtle sculpture created by Ocean Soul Africa from recycled flip-flops. Later, guests engaged in the ever popular Heads or Tails game to win a custom quilt. An estimated $47,000 was raised.