It is hard for me to believe that this year is almost over with. What is even harder for me to believe is that next year will mark the TEN year anniversary of when my “Alliance” actually started with alligators!
Even though I didn’t officially start Alligator Alliance until January of 2015, my “Alliance” with alligators began in July of 2010. I never imagined that the course of my life would be altered forever as I stood on the side of a road in Southport, NC gazing down at an alligator (Charlie) surrounded by trash. It was the first time I’d ever seen an alligator in the wild, in its natural habitat.
While I saw incredible beauty in what I lovingly refer to as a “Swamp Dragon,” I also saw that Charlie was surrounded by a LOT of trash and litter. An idea hatched in my mind that day … the idea that I could do something to make a difference in that alligator’s life. I admit, I didn’t really know how I was going to make that happen. So, as usual, I went home and told my husband John about it. We’ve been together for a VERY long time. I’ve had numerous ideas about projects throughout the years, but he says that he knew there was something different about this subject. He saw a fire in me that he’d never seen before.
Fast forward nine plus years and looking back, it is hard for me to believe how far we’ve come. 2019 has been yet another incredible year for us. We pretty much start each year without a game plan as far as our organization is concerned. All we know is that we’ll be doing what we normally do … cleaning habitats, doing presentations, educating people about alligators and doing what we love best … spending time with alligators.
I started my own physical transformation in June of 2018, when I decided to get healthy. Being overweight made it very difficult for me to physically clean alligator habitats. I was having problems walking and I just didn’t have any energy. I set out to lose 120 pounds and I met that goal February 1st of this year. Since then I have lost an additional 30 pounds. I feel so much better and I’m able to do so much more than I ever thought I’d be able to do at my age.
Following my weight loss we decided to celebrate by taking a ten day vacation in Florida this spring. Those ten days changed my mind about the direction I want to take Alligator Alliance in. I fell in love with Florida and I am excited about what we will be doing there in the future. We ended up flying back for several four-day weekends over the summer. Thank goodness for all the cheap flights (under $100!) from Greensboro to Orlando! We have plans to do some volunteer work with alligators in Florida next year. Florida is looking more and more like home to us. We love the fact that it’s warm all year round and there are so many alligators there!
After we got home from Florida we were pleasantly surprised when we were contacted by filmmaker Caleb Childers of Malachi Films who was working on a documentary about alligators in NC. He was interested in how we felt about NC’s first alligator hunting season that took place in 2018 (our first one since 1973). He was also interested in what we do and how my fascination and love for alligators all came about.
We immediately agreed to participate in the documentary. I made a brief statement about it in my April Blog, but I didn’t want to say too much about it until after we did the initial filming. We had hoped to do it in May, but Caleb was working on finishing up another documentary in Peru. Then Caleb and his wife celebrated the arrival of their second child in August. Finally, our schedules aligned and in October we were able to spend a few days at Orton Pond, filming with Caleb’s associate Brent Clark.
We had a great time and we were thrilled that our favorite alligator Beau decided to show up and participate along with us! We are looking forward to filming some more and completing our interview process for the documentary. We’d like to thank Caleb Childers, Malachi Films and Brent Clark for giving us this opportunity. We are beyond grateful and can’t wait to see the finished product!
Anticipating the documentary was certainly one of the highlights of our year, but we had a LOT of other things going on as well. We operate Alligator Alliance out of Brunswick County, NC. Normally we spend most of our time in and around Oak Island, Southport, Boiling Spring Lakes, Winnabow and Leland. This summer we had the opportunity to house sit for a good friend of ours who lives at Ocean Isle while she was in Georgia caring for her mother who was recuperating from a very serious surgery.
This worked out great for us because we started remodeling our own house in May. When the mess got too much for me at home, I could jump in the car every week and escape to Ocean Isle. We love the area and we found so many new alligator habitats! Between remodeling at home, looking after our friend’s house and yard at Ocean Isle, finding new alligator habitats, visiting (and cleaning) old ones, making several trips to Florida, doing three presentations this fall AND filming the documentary, we have had our busiest year to date.
One of the questions I am most often asked is … “What’s next for Alligator Alliance?” Honestly, I don’t quite know how to answer that question. We are so grateful to have made the front cover of North Brunswick Magazine (July 2018) and have a features article written about us in Carolina Country Magazine (July 2018). We are also thankful for the newspaper articles that have appeared in the State Port Pilot and the Brunswick Beacon over the years.
We are humbled by all of the e-mails and the outpouring of support that we continue to get from total strangers. We are thankful to all of you who took time out of your busy schedules to show up at our recent presentations. We had a wonderful time at the NC Reptile & Exotic Animal Show presented by Repticon in Raleigh in November (thanks guys!) We love meeting people in person who share our love for alligators.
But, at the end of the day, I don’t measure our success by how many magazines and newspapers we appear in, or how many interviews we do. Don’t get me wrong, the exposure these people have given us has helped us in so many ways and we are forever grateful! What we do isn’t glamorous. It’s not even that exciting. We don’t get paid for it. Alligator Alliance is 100% self-funded and non-profit. We do what we do because we LOVE alligators!
So, what’s next for Alligator Alliance? We’ll be doing what we’ve been doing for the past nine plus years: cleaning alligator habitats, fighting to conserve our alligator population, advocating for our “Swamp Dragons,” educating the public on these marvelous creatures (who more often than not get a bad rap) and going to wildlife meetings. And, most importantly, DOING WHAT WE LOVE and LOVING WHAT WE DO!
Starting in January we will be revamping and redesigning our entire website. We are excited to roll out a new, interactive feature that will enable us to communicate on a more personal level with those of you who visit our website on a regular basis. I have also made the decision to no longer write Blogs. I just simply do not have the time. We will add current information and upcoming presentations on our Home page. I am also excited to share my second children’s book with you this spring!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!