I normally wait until December to write my end-of-the-year “Thank You” blog, but this year I just couldn’t wait another day to make a huge announcement! We are so happy to let everyone know that our little organization has just gained two new members … Angie Holt and Kathy Sykes!
Longtime friend and fellow wildlife lover Angie Holt will be joining us as a Contributor in January. She will have her own page entitled ANGIE’S CORNER. She will be writing a monthly blog and sharing her knowledge about wildlife.
As you all know by now my favorite alligator is Beau. I met Angie several years ago at Beau’s habitat. It was just a normal day of me being on “Gator Patrol” and of course, I went to visit Beau. As I drove up to his habitat, there stood Angie. How was I to know what an impact this beautiful soul would make on my life?! We stood there beside of Beau’s habitat for hours, chatting like we had known each other for years. Angie has been a huge supporter of Alligator Alliance (and one of my best friends) from that day forward.
When we were under a stay-at-home order due to Covid-19 in 2020, she picked up trash for our Adopt-A-Highway program that we’ve been a part of since 2014. Every single time she is in Beau’s area, she stops and takes photos of him and texts them to me. She also helps us keep his habitat clean.
Angie is one of the most positive people I have ever met. She is genuine and she is reliable. She will do anything and everything for wildlife and doesn’t care how dirty she gets! She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.
When I wrote my first children’s book (“Beautiful Beau”), she was the very first one to read it. Recently someone posted a photo online of our sign beside of Beau’s habitat. I noticed there was a random sticker on it and I texted Angie. She immediately drove over and scrubbed that sticker off, LOL! When I went on my weight loss journey in 2018 (one of many throughout my lifetime), she became my biggest cheerleader! That is just the type of person Angie is. She is there for her friends AND she is there for wildlife. And like me, she finds beauty where others don’t.
New friend (and fellow “Gator Whisperer”) Kathy Sykes will also be joining us in January! Kathy will be our Contributing Photographer and (hopefully) I’ll be able to convince her to do some writing (she is an amazing story teller!). She will have her own page entitled GATOR UP BY KATHY SYKES.
Kathy is always posting beautiful photos of Beau (she calls him Popeye). During the warmer months I try to look at her profile daily, just to catch a glimpse of our boy. Even though I have long been a fan of Kathy’s photos, we had never actually met, or even talked, until October 29th (the day after I found out that Beau had been injured in a late season gator fight). Once again, Beau worked his magic and introduced me to Kathy. I immediately knew that I had met a kindred soul.
Kathy has loved alligators all her life and guess who’s her favorite? Beau aka Popeye! She lives and breathes alligators 24/7, just like me. She takes the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen (not just of alligators) … flowers, swamps, birds and dogs (shout out to my favorite breed and dog, the Catahoula Leopard, Miss Hazel Mae!).
Kathy is also VERY knowledgeable about alligators. She has been a volunteer with SAFEwater-NC since 2020, a research study evaluating the exposures and health effects of chemical contaminants on alligators and fish in North Carolina waters. SAFEwater-NC is being led by the lab of Dr Scott Belcher at NC State University and Kathy has been working closely with him.
My husband (John), me, Angie and Kathy were all brought together on October 29th by Beau and our concern for him. No matter whether you call him Beau, or Popeye, he is an extremely well loved gator. We had plans to meet Angie at Beau’s habitat, but I didn’t know that Kathy would be there. I was thrilled to finally meet her after all these years of hoping to do so!
John and Rich (Angie’s husband) sort of faded into the background as me, Angie and Kathy started talking. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “two peas in a pod” … well, that day there were three peas, LOL! Each of us had stories to share about Beau/Popeye, as well as knowledge (and thoughts) about his injury. We had binoculars and my husband’s zoom lens camera and we were inspecting Beau from the end of his snout to the tip of his tail. And in the meantime, Beau was doing what Beau does best … doing his “full body bask” in the sun!
Sadly, the day came to an end all too soon, but I knew these friendships were going to last a lifetime. Another thing I knew was the fact that I wanted these two ladies involved in our organization. I wanted to collaborate with them and partner with them. My husband and I had been discussing for the past year or so on how to get Angie more involved. And even though we had met Kathy for the very first time that day, I knew I wanted her onboard.
Luckily, Angie and Kathy both agreed to join us on our journey. We are looking forward to the future more than ever now! Welcome ladies! I know you both are going to be a huge asset to our organization.
Now, to the “Thank You” part of my blog …
First of all, thank you to my husband of 38 years (John), who makes everything so simple for me. No matter what kind of crazy ideas I have, he is ready to go along with them and make it happen. He has worked tirelessly on our website and without him none of this would be possible. When I came home in July of 2010 (after I saw my first gator in the wild) and had the idea that I wanted to clean alligator habitats, he immediately said he’d make me a custom grabber and help me. And he did.
Thank you to my 82 year old Dad (Gary George) who helped clean habitats again this year! He also helped pick up trash for our Adopt-A-Highway program. It has been such an honor and a privilege to have him work side by side with me and be involved in what I love to do! His support means the world to me (even though he thinks I’m crazy)!
Thank you to Chad Griffin, owner of CCSB Reptile Rescue & Rehab Center in Kernersville, NC. Chad has been our Mentor for so many years. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to Crocodilians, snakes, lizards and tortoises. He has always made himself available to us and he answers our calls, no matter what time (day or night) it is. You can visit the Kernersville Reptile Zoo & Medical Center at 821 South Main Street in Kernersville, NC. You can also watch some amazing and informative videos on his Reptile Rangers YouTube Channel!
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us, e-mailed us, or met us in person and told us how much they appreciate what we do. Your kind words and your support mean the world to us!
Thank you to Carolina Shirt Company in Calabash, NC for providing us with our beautiful t-shirts!
Thank you to Jon Supanich of Oak Island Golf Club for making it possible to view the alligators on the golf course and all of the photos that you text me. We have been friends for years and we appreciate you so much!
Thank you to Angie Holt and Kathy Sykes for saying “YES” to me! I love you both so much and I cherish our friendships!!! I have sooooo many projects I want to work on with the two of you! This is only the beginning of our adventures together. I value your input and can’t wait to pick your brains for ideas! To my fellow “Gator Whisperers” and “Swamp Queens” … Swamp water runs through our veins and alligators crawl through our brains!
Finally, please remember, ONE person CAN make a difference!
Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year … how many days is it until spring and our gators come out of brumation??? You know I am already counting them down!
A Word From Kathy Sykes:
Time to Confess - I've been keeping a Big Secret under my hat since October 28th. The Stars Aligned and the Time was Right for Good Fortune and Sheer Magic in a Happenstance "Meeting of the Minds" that occurred that day. Let me Tell you! The Synergy between us Three Gator Girls was Intoxicating! We Chattered and Chatted like Lifelong Friends catching up after a Prolonged Separation. My Popeye Gator aka Beau aka Larry aka Roc Star brought together 5 Passionate Alligator Supporters. I am so Happy to Introduce JC and Lisa McNeill - Executive Director and Creators of Alligator Alliance, myself and Angie Holt, their long time friend and supporter. Thanks go to Angie's Hubby Rich Holt for the first photo; Remaining Photos courtesy of JC McNeill / Alligator Alliance. No Matter what you choose to call my Old Warrior, the fact is, he is Dearly Loved by us all. My post about his Injury caught their Attention and Spurred them into action. Angie contacted an exotic Vet with my photos (I contacted my Alligator Expert Dr. Scott Belcher of NCSU SAFE water) and Lisa consulted a Reptile Rescue Expert from her area. All Concurred that the Wounds were from a Larger Alligator and would most likely heal. I can't say it Enough how Thankful I am for All the Recent Sunshine to Stimulate his Circulation and Promote Healing . I Urge you to visit the Alligator Alliance Website .There is a Wealth of Information about our Scaley, Scuted Friends, Photos, Magazine Articles and Lisa even wrote a children's book about our Favorite Gator called Beautiful Beau! I am Proud to Report some of my Photos are now being Featured on their Site! Alligator Alliance is a Forum to Promote Education, Understanding, Preservation and Protection of our Beloved Brunswick County Gators and their Environments. Stay Tuned For Lisa's Announcement in December. I am Looking Forward to Being a Contributing Force with this Most Worthy Organization. Come along on this Exciting Journey with Me, Lisa and her Hubby JC, and Angie and Rich! 2023 Look Out Because Ready or Not Here We Come!!