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Project Seahorse takes kids off Boynton coast to get acquainted with the sea
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 21:34

Wesley Wright
Sun Sentinel July 28, 2015

Many children in Palm Beach County have no idea just how picturesque their local sea life is, and if they are not introduced to water early, they run the risk of never getting to see its natural beauty.
To combat this issue, Dan Volker founded Project Seahorse, a program that introduces children to water and the local sea life in the hopes that it may pique their interest. Now in its second year, the project Tuesday took kids snorkeling off the coast of Boynton Beach to see underwater flora and fauna.
The children involved, some of whom were on a boat for the first time, saw dolphins and many types of fish as they snorkeled in the relatively shallow water.
"My favorite part was seeing all the creatures," said John Ponce, 11, from Boynton Beach. "I also liked looking at the ocean out there."
Volker enlisted the help of other local experts who helped his camp run smoothly. One was Jonathan Dickinson, who runs Florida Freedivers and volunteered his time.
"They brought me in to teach kids how to snorkel correctly," he said. "My hope is they can really learn this exciting kind of venue is in their backyard."
Campers used their newfound snorkeling expertise while they ventured underwater to see the Lofthus, which shipwrecked in 1868 off the Boynton Beach coast.
Called a "beautiful shipwreck" by Volker, the area now is frequented by schools of fish and other sea life.
"It was cool seeing the wreck," said Patrick Husing, also 11 and from Boynton Beach. "I didn't know it was there."
According to Volker, as many as 75 percent of the kids in Palm Beach County simply do not swim on a regular basis.
One of the features of this project is that it introduces the open ocean to children who otherwise would not be comfortable in the water. Accompanied by certified divers and lifeguards, the children had the chance to swim in the ocean.
The notion would have been preposterous just a few weeks prior for a few of the children.
"Some kids could barely swim across an Olympic pool," said Volker. "It's exciting for all of us to see how far they went and how comfortable they are."
Project Seahorse has another event set for Monday in Riviera Beach. They are expecting about 100 kids to participate — much more than the 40 or so kids who showed up at the Boynton Harbor Marina for Tuesday's event.
Every child Volker can reach is one who may develop a real interest in marine science, or one who may find a new pastime of spending hours at sea.
Showing them that they don't have to go far to see what they like is Volker's goal.
"We want them to be able to come out every weekend if they want," he said.

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