The Turtle Krawl Then (2001 – 2008)…
The Turtle Krawl was originally created in 2001 by Donna Lee Crawford, who worked for Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department at the time. She describes the original Turtle Krawl as a “family fun 10K Bike/Skate and 5K Run/Walk held in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.” From 2001 through 2008, the event “grew to nearly 300 participants and over 20 sponsors contributing up to $2000 annually to benefit the STPS. In addition to the purpose of the event being a fundraiser, it was also to raise awareness in the community for the important conservation and rescue work STPS volunteers conducted to protect the endangered sea turtles that nest on our beaches in Brevard County.”
When Donna Lee left the Parks and Rec. Department to work for the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program at the Barrier Island Sanctuary Management and Education Center in 2008, that was the end of the Turtle Krawl. There was no race in 2009.
The Turtle Krawl Now (2010 – Present)…
In 2010, the Sea Turtle Preservation Society Board of Directors voted to resurrect the Turtle Krawl, changing many aspects of the event but keeping the name the same. The STPS decided to move the race north to the heart of Indialantic, where the STPS Sea Turtle House is located. They hired Running Zone to provide course management and electronic timing. They agreed to purchase top of the line race shirts and medals, and provide other amenities in order to make the Turtle Krawl one of the area’s best 5k races.
Hoping for 250 registrants, the STPS was astounded when more than 600 people signed up for the race in 2010, netting more than $8000 for the non-profit, volunteer-run organization. In 2011, nearly 1000 people signed up for the race, and the STPS was able to raise over $20,000. In 2012, more than 1800 people registered for the race, making it the largest 5k in Brevard County and raising more than $34,000 for the STPS. The race has continued to grow since then, attracting as many as 2800 participants.
Where does the money raised from the Turtle Krawl go, you ask? Even though Brevard County has one of the highest concentrations of sea turtle nesting in the entire world, until recently, the closest rehabilitation facility was approximately a 90 minute drive from our beaches. Despite the best efforts of STPS volunteers, this distance resulted in delayed treatment for sick and injured sea turtles and reduced their chances of survival. After the unexpected success of the 2010 race, the STPS Board of Directors unanimously agreed to earmark Turtle Krawl proceeds for “special projects,” with the number one goal being getting a sea turtle facility built in Brevard County. In 2013, STPS partnered with the Brevard Zoo to make this dream a reality. Construction of the new facility was completed at the zoo in April of 2014, and the Sea Turtle Healing Center officially opened its doors to Brevard County’s sick and injured sea turtles. The STPS has committed to give $25,000 annually to the zoo to help cover the costs of this facility. Every single one of these dollars was raised through the Turtle Krawl.
After acting as the Turtle Krawl Race Director from 2010-2016, Mark Petrillo turned the reigns over the Vickie Openshaw in 2016. In addition to a core Turtle Krawl Committee, more than 100 other STPS and community members volunteer their time to put on this race annually. In Donna Lee’s own words, “I am thrilled and proud of STPS’s volunteers for recreating the Turtle Krawl in 2010 as a more successful fundraiser and awareness event than ever!”
One thing that has not changed throughout the entire history of the Turtle Krawl is the unique artwork created for the race by local artist Michael “Nemo” Nemnich. Each year, he donates custom created artwork to be featured on the back of the Turtle Krawl race shirts, where most other races would list several sponsor logos. Prints of Nemo’s artwork can be purchased by contacting him through his website.