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Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

Long before the pandemic, we Alaskans had finely honed our skills at coming together for our communities when times get tough. At the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, we experienced this aptitude in action one year ago. As Alaskans watched local businesses shutter and came to grips with a new concept of “normal,” you managed to come together in a big way for the Center.

Facing the loss of key visitor-based revenue streams, we announced last July we were on the verge of closing our doors. In response, you showed us that losing the Alaska SeaLife Center was not just another loss you’d allow during the pandemic. So you rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.

As we contemplated what we thought might be the final days of the Alaska SeaLife Center, your donations came rolling in. Along with the money came stories of the lemonade stands, extra chores, virtual musical gigs, art sales, corporate matches, and countless tip jars it took to make them possible. We’ll always remember your stories.

We watched your efforts to save the Center go viral, and then donations trickled in from around the world. You met our financial need and you filled countless hearts in doing so.

Funds were put back into the things you told us matter most to you: maintaining a stable home for more than 3,700 individual sea creatures, big and small. Donations provided the financial resources to respond to and rescue stranded animals, including eight harbor seals and one sea otter pup this summer. Three seals have been returned to their permanent home in Alaska’s ocean, and four others will be released soon.

Thanks to you, essential education programs have continued: 220 distance learning classes, 63 virtual visits and eight virtual Small Fry School sessions to approximately 16,000 participants this year. Your donations enabled ongoing mission research to understand the effects of our changing environment on ocean animals and their habitat.

Today, we take a moment to remember that, because of you, we’re still here for you. We’re still here making the Alaska SeaLife Center a fun and engaging place to visit with your families and out of town guests. The new Rocky Coast Discovery Touch Pools exhibit is now open and it’s not ours, it’s yours.

A year after putting out the call for help, the generosity of the Alaskan spirit can be seen in every corner of the Center and continues to pay dividends back to anyone who visits. When we notice the look of wonder on a child’s face watching a giant Pacific octopus glide by, we think of you. We think of you as we listen to the giggles of a classroom watching puffins feed on tiny fish. And we think of you, the Center’s donors, as we set out to respond when an animal is found abandoned or injured.

Please don’t take our word for it. Come fill up your bank with wonder, joy, and science. Bring your family to the Center next time you are in Seward so we can share what we’ve done with you and say thank you in person. You can follow us on social media and YouTube to stay connected, no matter where you live.

Most importantly, on behalf of the students we reach and the animals we save, please consider us among your Alaska community, no matter how many miles you may be from our doors, and please accept our deep gratitude for showing up when we needed your help. Thank you.

Dr. Tara L. Riemer is president and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

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