The golden medallion of the sun is perched high in the sky and the shore is a graceful arc of white-golden sand, glittering under the sunrise. Even on a calm day, the waves, like wild horses, rear up before crashing down on the shoreline, pounding the sand with their white foam hooves. The volunteers for International Coastal Cleanup Day at South Beach Park in Boca Raton bustle with activity. One volunteer with thick glistening gushing sweat soaking through the fabric of her shirt wipes the swaddled sweat gathered in her cap. The bleary-eyed volunteer guzzles down water and says, “We have to get together and better our Boca community.”
Usually, you’ll find sunbathing, floral board shorts and bikinis at the beach. But for International Coastal Cleanup Day, the non-profit organization Boca Save Our Beaches is suiting up and volunteering to preserve the ocean, the beach, and marine life at South Beach Park. Boca Save Our Beaches started in 2015 when the Boca Raton community came together at South Beach Park to clean up and document the trash littering the 24-acre beach. Boca Save Our Beaches is back again at South Beach Park to bring economic awareness regarding the destruction of the coastal environment.
Kristie Berger gears up to keep our beaches clean. By Nile Fortner/FAU student
The wind whips around volunteers and carried the unmistakable aroma of salt. The hot yellow sun is warm and the rays stretch out like fingers across a blue sky. It looks as if heat rained down on these beach cleanup volunteers like a breath from Hell.
First-time beach cleanup volunteer and Saxena White worker, 25-year-old Kelly Diehr says, “This is making Boca a better place. We’re helping to make the community a more beautiful place.” When Diehr isn’t being a bookworm or volunteering for other environmental events, Diehr believes, “The Boca Ocean really stands out. It’s gorgeous from all the rest and we should keep it that way. We have to get together and better our Boca community and wildlife.”
When recent birthday boy Tom Zeichman isn’t playing golf or staying updated with FAU athletics and academics, Zeichman says, “I’m only a mile away from the beach and my friends who volunteer are very active on social media.” One of those friends being Customer Management for Boca Save Our Beaches David Sergi, who says, “We’re very active on social media. Meeting new people and seeing new faces really inspires me to keep coming to these events. Even if you clean up for five minutes you can fill up a bucket of trash.”
Tony Gautney is all smiles and stays cool while cleaning for the community. By Nile Fortner/FAU student
Boca beaches are usually very clean. On the other hand, most of the trash is found in the large waist-high bushy scrub areas. Some of the items found in those areas include,
- Plastic bags
- Cigarette butts, despite it being a smoke-free beach
- Even tires
A recent pie chart showing the percentage amounts of beach debris. Google Images
With the sweat trickling down his forehead and dropping off from his chin, Sergi says, “The cleanup isn’t the hard part. It’s not just residents littering but it’s also trash from the ocean. It’s reaching out to residents and reaching out to students is a big one.”
College students get time off from school every spring and with South Florida being a popular destination for students, Boca beaches are bombarded with debris. “Always the beer bottles and other bottled or can drinks that are always found. That’s why it’s good for kids and students to know about their community,” says “Sergi.
It’s also Eric Wit’s first time doing a beach cleanup, Wit says, “We and people respect each other and the beach. Day, night, it doesn’t matter, it’s always respect and this event shows respect.” Wit, who is participating with his wife and two children says, “It’s great for kids, teaches them something new. It teaches you that you’ve to give back to your community.”
Shaped like whipped ice-cream, flecked like Oreo cookies in vanilla, swooping curves on the seashell that tapers to a point, a perfect home for a hermit crab. The shore is lined with seashells that aren’t any bigger than the nail on your pinky. Almost mistaking the shell for trash is Kristie Berger. The retired scuba-diving instructor says, “Other organizations will go out to different parts of the coast. But we really have to take care of what’s here. We really are set to make a difference right here in Boca Raton.” Within an hour, Berger’s bucket was already submerged with trash items such as beer bottles, plastic cups, and snack wrappers.
Aiden Saraiva (left) and Baron Saraiva (right) giving back to the community. By Nile Fortner/FAU student
With a bundle of blonde hair with more waves than the ocean, Boca Save Our Beaches founder Jessica Gray has found support from The City of Boca Raton and Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, Inc. Gray, who has described herself as a “huge environmentalist”, says, “Our last cleanup we got over 400 pounds and not counting today, we’ve gotten 2,800 pounds of trash. Every little bit helps. I just found an old toothbrush on the beach.” Every little bit helps and Gray ended by saying, “This is inspiring. Now, who wants to brush their teeth?”
Everyone cools down from the blazing beach heat at Boca’s Prosperity Brewers by chugging down a couple of cold ones. The golden-orange glow of the glass was as bright as the sun on the beach. A man in flip-flops and a floral Hawaiian shirt holds a drink in his hand and ends the day by saying, “Cheers, to our clean beaches and community.”