Eleven year-old Casey Sokolovic lives in North Carolina with her mom, dad and big brother. She plays volleyball, basketball and soccer – does well in school. She listens to Taylor Swift and hates broccoli. She’s seemingly a typical tween living a happy life.
Happy, yes. Typical?
This young lady is a one-girl freight train of compassion, ambition and citizenship for a single sea creature she became smitten with almost four years ago. And she’s literally spreading the love.
The objects of her desire (and resulting conservation efforts)?
Birth of a Passion
Casey and family visited the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, North Carolina, in 2005 on a family trip, and little did everyone know – including Casey – that it would spark not only a passion for an animal, but a drive to make a difference in that animal’s fate – a drive that’s burning just as strong, if not stronger today.
As Casey tells it, it was seeing turtles injured and sick with disease at Topsail that made her want to help. And as her mom, Kay, tells it, it was a natural outgrowth of her personality that led her establish her organization “Help Them LAST” (which stands for Love A Sea Turtle), to bake and sell turtle-shaped cookies, participate in school fundraisers on their behalf, ignite the interest of everyone she could possibly find and when she was “done,” present the turtle hospital in Topsail with a check for $2,500.
“Casey has a natural ability to relate to people. She is very sincere, appreciative and caring,” says Kay. “Her interviews are real – it’s Casey talking about her passion.”
Making it LAST
Casey’s sea turtle conservation success has not gone unnoticed. Last year, she was recognized for her efforts by being chosen as one of five finalists for
the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, an award given each year to a young standout in conservation.
But her work is not just an outlet for a pre-teen fascination, destined to fizzle the minute something new comes along. It’s grown into a movement that absorbs her whole family. Lucky Casey.
“As this passion has evolved, we’ve supported all of her efforts and will continue to do so,” says Kay. “When Casey said she wanted to go to the Sea Turtle Hospital and volunteer to walk the beaches, I didn’t hesitate. We’re all very supportive of her and look forward to “what can we do next?”. She has invoked excitement in all of us.”
The family recently took a trip to Barbados – planned entirely around sea turtle conservation, where they walked and cleaned beaches and talked to marine biologists. And plans are already in place for the family to return to Topsail this summer to lend their hands again for sea turtle rehab.
But Casey also takes her act to school and involves her friends. “I include them in my activities, I share my success with them. My friends and I are involved in Environmental Ambassadors at my school – we are a club that discusses and plans activities related to environmental issues.” And according to Casey, her example is catching on. “My friends are very supportive and help with ideas, too.”
What’s Next? Big Plans.
So how do you top the conservation muscle Casey’s been able to amass at such a young age? Brew up something new, of course!
Next up for the Sokolovics in furthering LAST’s efforts for sea turtles is the launch of a special Fair Trade Organic coffee blend, a collaboration with Hillsborough, N.C. coffee creator Joe VanGogh, called – what else – Sea Turtle Blend. Casey sells it in small quantities now, and they hope to interest large retailers like Whole Foods Market in putting it on their shelves in the near future. All of Casey’s profits from sales go to the sea turtle hospital in N.C.
But that’s not all – Casey wants everyone to love sea turtles as she does (boy, that sounds familiar!) and is hard at work on additional awareness activities. “I am developing a website and designing t-shirts with my new logo,” she says.
Getting Kids Interested in Making a Difference 4 Oceans
O4E asked Casey for her tips on getting kids who might not give oceans a second glance excited about getting involved in conservation efforts. Here are her tips:
*Involve them in your activities.
*Explain to them the effects of littering and how ocean creatures are depleting because of our actions.
*Hands-on activities are great – looking, touching, exploring the interactions between ocean creatures.
For example, Casey’s class will be going on a field trip to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in May, and will get to spend the night in its aquarium. The clas will also work with the marine science center, performing hands-on activities and a marsh exploration.
We at Oceans 4Ever are happy to call Casey and her family our new friends. Look collaborative announcements from O4E and LAST coming soon.
We’re behind you, Casey, and are grateful for the opportunity to further awareness of you and your cause within the ocean conservation community.
Pour us – well, Cindy – a cup of Sea Turtle Blend!
(Pssst…want some of your own? Watch O4E closely next week for your chance to win some of THE hottest new roast in town!)
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