This past semester I was called down to Key West, FL, to help out an aunt of mine, who is disabled with Multiple Sclerosis. I had online classes for the spring semester, so going down there and still doing my classes was not a problem. I was able to help my aunt out by driving her to wherever she needed to be, I assisted her with grocery shopping, and helped her around the house with whatever she could not do on her own. Not only was I down there to help my aunt, but I also was able to get myself involved with the community. I was able to work with an organization called Reef Relief located just a couple of blocks from where I was staying. This organization is there to inform Key West about the reefs and sea-life and does various monthly service projects. The service projects were usually either a clean up of some sort or a storm drain stencil project. All over the island they have stenciled the storm drains with “NO DUMPING DRAINS TO OCEAN.”
My very first service project with Reef Relief was something I will never forget. They were having a beach clean up on Sugar Loaf, which is a couple of islands up the keys. The clean up was at a popular local spot, which is slowly turning into a tourist attraction called the “Jumping Bridge.” I was so shocked by the amount of trash there was in the area, and quickly filled my trash bag within my first ten minutes. I was digging old glass bottles out of the ground, and going back in the trees and brush to get mainly cans and plastic bags out of the area. I remember I filled up my first bag so quickly that I was given an even bigger bag, which was still not enough to hold all the trash I was finding. When the two hours were over, with just 50 volunteers, we pulled out 570 pounds of trash in this one area. This was very eye-opening to me, and I am now hyper aware of all the trash that is in any area. It makes me really sad to see how environments can change, and how the local people feel about it all. I am glad though that I was able to make a slight difference in the area, and hope that more people will be aware of their surroundings and what can be done to keep surrounding areas clean.
If you ever visit the Florida Keys, I recommend visiting Reef Relief and learning more about the island and what their part is in keeping its beauty!!
McKenna Dudiak has completed her second year as a Luckyday Scholar. She is majoring in Healthcare Sciences.