Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
My favorite shark is the great white shark. Smart, fast with highly-developed senses: that’s pretty much perfection.
I spent a lot of time in the Windward and Leeward Islands early in my career when I was working on yachts and in the film industry. We hardly ever saw sharks on dives or trips between the islands. Even then I started to wonder why they were so scarce. I later learned about shark finning and saw some horrific pictures online. I couldn’t believe how terrible it was and insanely barbaric. My focus switched immediately to helping sharks whenever I had a spare moment. I started signing petitions and working via social media to get the word out about shark finning.
When I went to Belize in May 2011, I went diving with whale sharks. I started researching and becoming fascinated with how they migrate and follow the spawning aggregations. I met some really cool shark conservationists down there and came back from that trip knowing I was going to change my life. I wanted to really step up working for the environment and specifically work with sharks.
I became involved with Shark Savers because the organization itself has a great story: it was started by divers. I also knew of people like the photographer Eric Cheng, and my brother worked with Stan Waterman on some movies when he was in college. I recognized these names on the Shark Savers website and that was a cool, validating thing for me.
Shark Savers also has a great social media presence so I was able to help get the word out about petitions and state fin bans a long time before I was actually in a position to work with Shark Savers in person. Everyone I’ve meet at Shark Savers has a real passion for what they do and gives 110%, it really is inspirational.
To make a difference for sharks I leverage my business development, sales and marketing skills. In my career I have been very successful in opening doors and closing deals at major corporations like Boeing, Disney, NBC. So now I’m using those skills to help sharks by getting donations and fundraising commitments for events.
I plan to keep going with other creative local fundraising and community outreach events that will attract attention in various fields like the arts. I’d also like to start working on projects with celebrities who have ties to South Florida and to leverage my background in film and video to help with PSAs for outreach.
The Florida Shark Party was a fun and very successful event! Our party committee was small, just 3 of us, myself, Hannah Medd and Nikole Ordway. We worked together to come up with great ideas for marketing, donations, who to invite and what message we wanted to get across for the sharks.We had excellent teamwork and knew which one of us had the best skills for whatever needed to be done.
We worked for three months gathering auction items, food and beverage donations and raffle items. I think we ended up with 25 donation companies, companies like Land Shark, Rugged Shark, Fourth Element, Aqua Lung. The best part of getting the donations was how amazing the people were that I dealt with. They really wanted to help us and to help the sharks. At one point we had a hammerhead theme going with 2 amazing hammerhead pieces of art donated in one day!
Everyone who attended the party really had a great time, learned about important shark related issues and stepped up to donate lots of funds for the raffle and silent auction. We had great volunteers, the owner of Force-E was onboard donating the dive shop for the venue and the restaurant donating the food kept working with us when the numbers grew from 50 to 100 guests! The awareness factor was amazing. We had outreach going on local, national and even international levels.
The Florida Shark Party really showed me that a LOT of people care about sharks and understand how they connect to the fabric of the ocean environment. An artist donated a $2000 carving, jewelers were thrilled to help. It really is inspiring how people step up and do the right thing much of the time. That’s what gives me hope that someday we will win and that sharks and our oceans will be in better shape. People really can make a difference. And it’s amazing how much of a difference just a few or even one person makes.