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Travel Professionals Help Restore Hurricane Damage in Florida Keys

MARATHON, Florida  Tourism Cares, the philanthropic community of the tourism industry, kicked off its yearlong Uniting for Resilient Destinations volunteer program in May in the Florida Keys.

In the first of two service projects, 150 travel professionals joined local partners at eight sites to support communities impacted by climate change and Hurricane Irma.

Among the work done by the volunteers was helping with a fish survey to help researchers and resource managers further assess the effects of Hurricane Irma on marine ecosystems; helping rebuild an owl enclosure at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center; diving to monitor diminishing coral and snorkeling to help with fish identification; and assessing reef health as part of a national study.

Others in kayaks helped clean up debris in a canal at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and along the shoreline of Big Pine, while two groups helped with home repairs in neighborhoods in the Middle Keys and Lower Florida Keys and planted and cleaned up at Grimal Grove, a small farm and botanical garden.

In addition to volunteer labor, tools and materials, Tourism Cares donated an additional $35,000 to the nonprofit host projects from its Destination Disaster Recovery Fund.