By SHANNON CAULFIELD
The Marlton Sun
Getting to area beaches is a short trip for Marlton residents. However, for the less fortunate, leaving the city limits can be a rare occurrence.
Taylore Shea, a student at Bishop Eustace High School and Marlton resident, holds a strong connection to the small beach town of Sea Isle City located in Cape May County.
“I’ve been going there since I was little. I wanted to incorporate the beach with giving back,” said Shea.
Shea had always enjoyed service projects done through school or other local organizations, but wanted to create a project of her own.
She contacted Sacred Heart Church, located in Camden, which assisted her in finding kids interested in visiting the beach.
“I realized that [Sea Isle City] is vacation for most people, and not everyone gets to experience the fun at the beach,” said Shea. “I had been trying to initiate a service project for quite some time, and then I realized this is what I wanted to do. Most of the kids had never even been to the beach before, and they were ecstatic about all the fun activities we were going to do.”
Tim Schenk of Sacred Heart organized the children.
“I had led some beach trips in the past. I work at the front desk in the summer, and Taylore approached me, wanting to do a trip. I got the students together who wanted to go on the trip,” said Schenk.
Kids in grades kindergarten through eighth grade were able to make the 70-mile journey using funds raised by Shea.
Shea sent letters to neighbors, family members and friends to donate the money needed for the trip. Additionally, she placed donation cans in various businesses in the area.
“I contacted both the public and private sectors to obtain donations needed for the project. We needed shade tents, boogie boards, buckets and shovels, beach tags, continental breakfasts, lunches, snacks, water, ice cream, fudge, t-shirts, printing, and a shell ornament for a beach memory with Sea Isle and the year written on it,” said Shea
Upon arriving in Sea Isle, Shea had shore-related activities set up for the kids.
“They had everything taken care of. It was amazing what they had for the children. She was very focused on our kids,” said Schenk.
“I contacted the chamber of commerce, and they directed me to an educational beach combing activity. After they ate, we did beach combing where a volunteer from Sea Isle City taught the kids about different kinds of shells and animals of the Jersey Shore. Then the kids got to walk around the beach to look for shells and we talked about their ‘findings,’” said Shea.
Additionally, members of the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol provided the kids instruction on beach safety before they entered the water boogie boarding, swimming and playing on the beach.
“Taylore really had devoted attention to the students. She wasn’t just doing this for them, she was doing it with them. She played in the sand, went in the water and boogie boarded with them. It was great,” said Schenk.
The children were also given T-shirts, fudge, an ornament, a coloring book and a beach ball, all of which were provided by donations, according to Shea.
“One kid told me they had the best day of their life. It really feels great to give back to the community,” said Shea.
“The kids felt like they were part of something. They were so excited on the way home, and were all sharing and talking about their favorite part of the day,” said Schenk. “The day really brought out the excitement.”
Shea plans to continue the project, and to show kids the beach.
“I would love to continue this program and make it even larger. Hopefully my act of service will inspire others to do the same. Although I already knew I was blessed and I was helping others, I didn’t realize I was impacting someone else’s life through a simple act of inviting them to the beach,” said Shea.
Despite the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, there are still plans to head back to the beach this summer.
“We definitely plan to,” said Schenk. “We definitely plan to go. There’s nothing on our end keeping us from going.”
So far, there has been no word from Cape May County or Sea Isle City whether beaches will be closed this summer.