Turtle hero : Eight-year-old boy saves birthday money to help sea turtles in Southwest Florida
Atticus Chapman wanted one thing for his eighth birthday: to collect money for Turtle Time and help loggerhead sea turtles of Southwest Florida.
Atticus is from Alton, Illinois, far from the beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs. But he is fond of the creatures.
“It’s that I don’t want turtles to be extinct,” Atticus said. “There have been so many things that are extinct, and I don’t want them to be extinct.”
He decorated a box with stenciled turtles. His family and friends donated money instead of giving him gifts for his birthday.
Atticus presented Turtle Time, a south Lee County nonprofit that aims to protect loggerhead turtle nests and hatchlings, with a check for $250.
The young boy’s infatuation with local sea turtles began a year ago when he visited Bonita Springs with his parents, Louise and Jason Chapman.
The family was at the beach and Atticus was talking about science with his parents when he told them he wanted to be an oceanographer, the family recalls.
Turtle Time volunteer Joe Hanek was walking by and overheard the young boy. Hanek had just excavated a hatched nest and rescued a hatchling.
“I heard him just talking science,” Hanek said. “I wanted to show him a turtle that I had just dug up and the nest that we had.”
After that encounter, young Atticus talked about turtles nonstop.
“He’s hooked,” Jason Chapman said.
Turtle Time was a positive influence on the boy, said Louise Chapman.
« It is never too young to get them environmentally conscious, » she said.
His mother said it was Atticus’s idea to raise money for Turtle Time.
“Through his love of turtles he decided to do this,” she said. “It was all him.”
The family recently returned to Bonita Springs for vacation and met with members of Turtle Time.
Atticus told the volunteers all the sea turtle-related activities he’s been participating in.
“Last night I made a loggerhead sea turtle out of sand,” he said.
Atticus said he has filled in holes he has seen on the beach to help make it easier for nesting sea turtles to journey up the beach to lay eggs. He also watched lots of science videos about turtles.
“I was watching a video this morning and there were all sorts of turtles disoriented,” Atticus said.
Eve Haverfield, the founder and president of Turtle Time, was pleased to receive Atticus’ donation.
“We will put this to really good use,” Haverfield said. “This is very kind.”
Haverfield said the money will be used for educational materials and flyers with turtle information.
Seeing such a young boy have such a great passion for sea turtles is remarkable, said Haverfield.
“It is always heartwarming when little children early on appreciate sea turtles and what is happening to them,” she said. “To me, that is just a hopeful element for the future. »