Network for Endangered Sea Turtles — N.E.S.T. — will host its annual Spring Kick-off Fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, April 8, at Duck Woods Country Club, 50 S. Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores.

The event is open to the public, and a suggested $10 admission is appreciated.

The fundraiser features a full barbecue dinner — $13 per person — cash bar, DJ/music provided by Scott Morton, Chinese raffle, 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.

Some of the silent auction and raffle items include:

  • Dinner for two at Coastal Provisions
  • Gift certificate to Bad Bean Baja Grill
  • Gift certificate to Blue Water Grill
  • Handmade quilt featuring sea life
  • Oil painting from Susan VanGieson
  • Painting from Rob Snyder
  • Brass sea turtle necklace from Georgia Griffiths
  • Sterling silver sea turtle necklace from Christina D’Amato
  • Two $50 gift certificates from All Ducked Out
  • $145 gift certificate from Coastal Animal Hospital
  • $135 gift certificate for STEAM Summer Camp (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)
  • $25 gift certificate from Beach Treasures
  • $25 gift certificate Spice & Tea Exchange of Duck

All items donated are posted on N.E.S.T.’s Facebook page, so check back often for updates.

Fundraising events are a vital part of the nonprofit’s goal to protect an endangered species, says Margaret Janes, treasurer of the all-volunteer nonprofit.

Funds raised at the event will help fuel variety of projects, including:

  • A new educational program working to make sea turtles part of the core curriculum in local schools;

  • A new science program that includes the use of high-powered hydrophones to monitor sea turtle nests;

  • Medical costs associated with caring for sea turtles at STAR Center; and

  • Maintain the nonprofit’s fleet of seven ATVs. The organization uses the vehicles to monitor approximately 50 miles of shoreline during nesting season. The salt is a rust-generator, so the frames of the ATVs are only good for around five years.

About N.E.S.T.

N.E.S.T, which works under the auspices of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, works closely with the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island and the National Park Service turtle management program within Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Its volunteers also lend a hand at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center, which works to successfully rehabilitate turtles that suffer injuries, such as ingesting a foreign object, boat strikes and snagged with fishing hooks, and return them back to the wild.

The site of the Spring Kick-off Fundraiser is a lovely country club setting, but organizers want to stress the fact that this event is for everyone. Dress code is casual and no one cares if you get some barbecue sauce on your shirt, look goofy on the dance floor or can only afford to donate $10 to attend. Every single 10-spot helps.

"The success of the fundraiser is important as the event helps spread the word on the serious threats to sea turtle survival," Janes says. "Sea turtles have been around for 110 million years — since the time of the dinosaurs — and they are now on the brink of extinction."

These prehistoric creatures serve as the "canary in the mine shaft" for serious environmental problems, such as global warming and ocean pollution, "and their overall numbers are still declining. N.E.S.T.’s mission includes educating the public about these and other threats to sea turtles."

Marianne Benkowski, who lives in Northern Virginia, says she considers sea turtles to be as important to the allure of the Outer Banks as the dunes at Jockey's Ridge and the wild horses of Corolla.

"I've been coming to the Outer Banks on vacation since I was a child, and whenever I spot a sea turtle — let alone a nest — I feel like a kid again," Benkowski, 38, says.

"Wildlife is under attack on all fronts, and if we don't do what we can to protect endangered wildlife, our great-grandchildren, if not our grandchildren, will think of sea turtles the way we think of the California grizzly and Tasmanian tiger: Anyone in my generation could only see photos and taxidermied examples of those species. That's just sad. I don't want that to happen to loggerhgeads and other sea turtles — and if it does happen, it will be on our watch," Benkowski says. "I wouldn't want to have to explain that to my grandchild."

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