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Following HEART: How a Houston-area Elementary School Helped the Kemp Ridley’s

HEART (Help Endangered Animals-Ridley Turtles) began at Oak Creek Elementary school (now Reynolds Elementary) near Houston in 1982.  

As the HEART Founder, I kept records showing what school children contributed to help the  Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico that were on the brink of extinction. A number of students were chosen by the principal to form the first HEART Council and look for ways to help the Kemp’s ridleys.

Someone in the “turtle world” referred to HEART as a nickel-and-dime operation since children and schools sent donations, and I guess it was. There were 200 other HEART Councils formed representing all states including an American school in Saudi Arabia. They raised approximately $100,000 over a ten-year period, and the money went directly to help the sea turtles, including all the sea turtle food for the hatchlings being raised by National Marine Fisheries Service at their Galveston facility. Containers for raising the turtles were also purchased as well as a PA system, an answering machine, and an electronic scale.  Another $40,000 was raised to build a new turtle house at Galveston. Donations from children and some adults also helped the Mexican nesting beach camps by purchasing two 4-wheel ATVs, a generator, a Zodiac boat and motor, tents and educational materials for schools in the area. HEART also purchased materials to build a small building for students and volunteers to use.  Contributions were made for graduate assistantships at Texas A&M University at Galveston for students studying sea turtles and for a biology student from Costa Rica studying at Texas A&M University at College Station. HEART published and also distributed over 100,000 educational brochures.

In 2002, I transferred HEART to Turtle Island Restoration Network where work continues today. I continue to receive information from teachers and letters from students wanting to help HEART and the Kemp’s ridleys.