As a young girl, I recall making countless trips to local Southern California beaches- San Clemente Pier on the bus (a mint chip ice cream cone at the second to last stop on the way home), Newport Beach to hang out at the Fun Zone, Doheny State Beach learning to longboard, and most often hitching a ride with my Mom in her cherry red Volkswagen Convertible Bug down to Laguna Beach to enjoy the waves, beautiful scenery, and good vibes. As I got older, one of my favorite things to do on the ride home from Laguna was to stop by and visit the "Friends of the Sea Lion". For years, we referred to this old place as the “big red barn”. It was a fantastic, lowly traveled place tucked on the side of Laguna Canyon Road where we could get an up-close glimpse of seals and sea lions that were getting nursed back to health.
As I grew through the years, my trips on the bus ceased and stops to the ice-cream shop grew fewer. My runs down to the Fun Zone became limited and my longboarding days got disrupted by life’s responsibilities and were soon replaced by chasing my young children on the beach. Soon my oldest daughter was off to school and had started her social journey in Daisies. Before we knew it she had graduated to Brownies, and was finally off to spend a brief stint with the Girl Scouts. During one of her very favorite years in the program, we were invited by a neighboring troop to go see a “release” hosted by this group called PMMC. The kids, of course, had no idea of what a “release” was but they were willing to give it a try. So one foggy morning, I loaded the kids up in the car and took them down to a cove in Laguna, Crescent Beach. When we arrived, there were a number of people forming a semi-circle around what appeared to be dog kennels. The kids peeked around the crowd curious to know what they’d see next. As the onlookers grew quieter, the volunteers stepped forward and began to explain the severe injuries that one sea lion had suffered by shark attack, she shared about the other’s malnutrition, and yet the third small sea lion’s bout with a deadly illness. She explained that they had been nursing these juvenile sea lions back to health over the past months. Thanks to the Girl Scout Troop, they were able to feed and treat the wounded sea mammals with the proper veterinarian care and ultimately were going to be able to release Brooklyn, London, and one other back into the wild. On cue, we stood back and watched an amazing thing unfold before our very eyes. The three sea lions all emerged from their kennels at once, one following the other in a race on the sand down to the water. The first one splashed into the water, ducked under the wave and popped his head up to watch for the others. The other two jumped in and would begin to swim away. They didn’t get far before they would turn back and pop their heads up to look back toward shore. They did this multiple times as if to say thank you to the amazing humans that helped them to be free again. It was a beautiful and meaningful moment to watch these once helpless creatures once again swim freely. It was a memory I wouldn’t forget.
Upon my 40th birthday, I didn’t want to do just the traditional. I wanted to do it up right. So, after much planning and scheduling, a group of my closest friends and family members set off to accomplish 40 acts of kindness for my 40th birthday that very day. After collecting carts in the grocery store parking lot, paying for a couple’s coffee at Starbucks, donating toys to the fire station, singing to an elderly man who needed a visit, and conducting many other acts, we of course had to stop by the “old red barn”. It was there that I donated some funds to support the rehabilitation and release of sea mammals. I gained yet another smile as I walked away from one of my favorite places. I was officially a donor to a place and organization that gladly offers tremendous sacrifice to rehabilitate sea mammals critical to the ocean’s habitat. They educate others about sea stewardship, and bring joy not only to the animals in need but also to those humans who are elated to see a seal or sea lion up close for the first time (or many times over just like me).
Today, years later, while life has moved forward and only gotten busier, one thing remains constant…my love for that “big red barn”. It’s that beautiful place where I’ve been able to witness rehabilitation, countless hours of volunteer work, and a true spirit of making a difference for those otherwise helpless and hurt creatures that make our oceans amazingly beautiful and the beach community around them even more spectacular.
I am delighted to announce that in the spirit of giving back and staying true to our mission of making a difference, Blue Billicat will officially be partnering with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), the “big red barn”, to donate 5% of our profits to this amazing cause and facility. Join us in our support of bringing back the happy!
To learn more about the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, click on the link below.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXOe1Wv8RbY