Imagine walking through a sea of trees this holiday season, uniquely decorated with creative themes and twinkling lights. The spirit of the holidays dripping from every branch, and the hearts of visitors filling to the brim as they take in the wonder. Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder (DPMMR) is making that whimsical setting a reality, introducing the newest holiday tradition to the Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys Sea of Trees is a season-long celebration open nightly from November 24th to January 7th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Never before has the Keys enjoyed such a long holiday event that is perfect for all ages! Admission is only $10.
The Sea of Trees will showcase over 100 uniquely-themed holiday trees and dozens of lovingly decorated wreaths sponsored by local businesses and donors. It will feel as if you are floating through an enchanted forest with trees towering as high as 20 feet.
In addition to the nightly tree viewing, Santa’s Village will appear on select nights with plenty of photo opportunities and fun activities for the whole family. Festivities include holiday-themed snacks & cocktails, crafts, paint nights, workshops, a unique holiday gift shop, and Santa’s Workshop, where kids can shop for their loved ones.
This enchanting event supports a magical mission that DPMMR has been working toward for years and that the Keys community has been anxiously awaiting. The proceeds support the further development of The Protect Center, where the event is being held.
The Protect Center is a new dolphin and whale hospital where sick, injured, and orphaned marine mammals can receive the lifesaving care they need. It’s the only hospital of its kind in South Florida and fills a dire need in the Keys environment.
In over four decades, DPMMR has responded to over 650 stranded or injured dolphins and whales by working with temporary facilities, local government agencies, and other rescue organizations with permanent hospital and rehabilitation facilities. However, those permanent facilities are hours away from the Keys, and transporting the animals such distances greatly decreases their chance of survival.
In 2019, DPMMR rescued two unwell bottlenose dolphins from shallow water near Fiesta Key. They coordinated with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the governing agency for all whales and dolphins in U.S. waters, who authorized DPMMR to transport the dolphins to SeaWorld Orlando to receive the care they desperately needed.
Unfortunately, due to poor medical conditions and hearing loss, both animals were deemed non-releasable by the NMFS, and one passed away shortly after arriving at SeaWorld. The other animal, named Hemingway, was stabilized and able to live out his remaining years under excellent care at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
While the collective organizations did everything in their power to save these animals, the several hours-long transport out of the Florida Keys puts rehabilitation and recovery efforts at a disadvantage.
With The Protect Center now established in Islamorada, DPMMR’s mission to rescue and return dolphins and whales to their natural habitat whenever possible will reach much higher levels of success. And that success will only grow with the proceeds from the Sea of Trees event, which includes funding a 56,000-gallon saltwater ICU tank currently under construction.
There are several opportunities and levels of sponsorship available for the Sea of Trees event, from Spirit Wreaths to Showstopper Trees. It’s personally rewarding and a great marketing opportunity for businesses to align with a charitable cause while providing enjoyment for the community.
If you or your business wish to sponsor a tree or wreath or become a unique sponsor (i.e., “The Naughty List” Beverage Bar Sponsor), please contact Andrea or Nancy at (305)453-4321 or visit ConnectToProtect.org/trees to learn more.
– Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.