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March 2, 2023

Go Bully Auction Prizes

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, DDWS has evolved its annual Go Wild for “Ding” annual fundraiser to Go Bully for “Ding” – An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt, riffing off one of the president’s favorite expressions. The sold-out event takes place on March 6.


Although tickets are no longer available, anyone can bid on unique live auction items while helping the Refuge recover from severe hurricane damage to facilities and wildlife habitat. Headlining the auction prizes, a Mangrove Cuckoo sculpture in a display case, carved by renowned bird carver Jim Sprankle, is as rare as the bird it depicts. Much sought-after by READ MORE


Find out more about all four live auction items here.

Welcome Back, Interns

Two former interns have returned to “Ding” Darling as DDWS becomes able, thanks to generous donations, to once again hire help and provide interns with housing. All of the intern housing at the Refuge was destroyed beyond repair by Hurricane Ian in September. Currently, interns reside in temporary housing DDWS was able to secure.


Ali Reece started shortly before the storm, in August, as a DDWS Harkey Development & Communications Intern. After the loss of island housing meant she had to return home to Indiana, she continued to help DDWS remotely with graphic art and other projects. Last month, she was able to return to Southwest Florida and work in-person in DDWS’ temporary office.


Ali graduated from Indiana State University in Terre Haute in May 2022 with a degree in marketing and a minor in sustainability. Originally from Cambridge City, Indiana, Ali was previously working in the university’s Office of Sustainability as outreach and communications student project. Prior to that, she worked on Sanibel Island at CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) from June to December 2020 as the conservation education and marketing intern.


Diana Iglesias has returned to reprise the position she served in summer 2022 as bilingual interpreter and translator for the WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile classroom and other educational “Ding” programs. 


Born in New York, Diana lived most of her life in Lima, Peru. She graduated from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Before moving to “Ding” in 2022, Diana worked in Peru five years in business and business intelligence and later in member services for United Healthcare.


Welcome back to the team, ladies!

Ali Reece

Diana Iglesias

Refuge Cleanups

The Refuge has partnered with Florida Gulf Coast University and its Honor’s Service Learning Program to provide students with meaningful, service-learning opportunities, and, at the same time, providing much-needed help with Refuge reopening efforts. The students receive service credits while engaging in hands-on work at the Refuge, including cleanups, outreach, urban education, and social media.

Next week, spring breakers arrive to pitch in, including a group of 14 Penn State students to be led by Ranger Jess Berry in kayaks at Tarpon Bay Recreation Area and two other groups under the direction of Ranger Katy Hosokawa. Thanks to all the volunteers past, present, and future who contribute their sweat and muscle to getting the Refuge back in shape.

Hurricane Update

We consistently update our resource page and include a hurricane update each week in our "Ding" on the Wing. Access sites doing a better job with on-the-ground updates, such as the city of Sanibel. Please call us with any questions at 239-292-0566.  

For residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Ian, here is a printable pdf of resources. We are trying to keep it updated and hope it helps. 

This week's new information: 

  • Today: Lee County Horticultural Agent Stephen Brown to Provide Post-Storm Landscape Restoration Lecture
  • Relighting of the Sanibel lighthouse took place on February 28. It made the front page of the Orlando Sentinel.
  • News-Press: "Countdown to history: Watch video of Sanibel Lighthouse being relit" article.
  • Notice of Election, City of Sanibel Tuesday, March 7, 2023.Temporary Voting / Polling Location: Sanibel Rec Center 3880 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957 from 7 am - 7 pm
  • Wink News: "Bay County shows that hurricane recovery is a long, expensive process" article.
  • News-Press: "Historic Fort Myers Beach restaurant pummeled by Hurricane Ian reopens" article.
  • NBC2 News: "Hurricane Ian revealed how many vulnerable seniors live in SWFL" article.
  • WGCU: "Caution given for Sanibel Causeway islands use during reconstruction activities" article.
  • "Five months after Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers residents need homes, FEMA aid and trauma care" article.
  • News-Press: "High red tide counts show up in Collier waters, still strong in Lee, Charlotte" article.
  • Wink News: "Congress’ inaction places cap on Hurricane Ian damage claims" article.
  • News-Press: "Hurricane repairs top list as Florida lawmakers seek billions for local projects" article.
  • Wink News: "Lee County Task Force for Hurricane Ian recovery" article.
  • "Lake Okeechobee discharges: Why are we having them; when must they stop? Why?" article.
  • Wink News: "How you could deduct Hurricane Ian disaster losses from your taxes" article.
  • American College of Cardiology: "Cardiovascular Care During a Natural Disaster Lessons Learned From Hurricane Ian" article.
  • On March 9, the newly formed SanCap Citizens for a Resilient Future hosts a post-hurricane community event from 6 to 9 p.m. at BIG ARTS on Sanibel. It is open to the public free of charge and will focus on sharing community stories and collecting feedback to guide a citizen-led planning effort focused on building greater resiliency for the future. 
  • NBC News: "Hurricanes could push deeper into U.S. in coming decades" article.
  • NBC2: "5 months since Ian: What’s your home’s hurricane risk level now?" article.
  • National Ocean Service: "Sea Level Rise" article.
  • Fort Myers Florida Weekly: "Tell your Hurricane Ian Story" article.
  • 2023 Southwest Florida Climate Summit registration is now live
  • FISH Furniture Distribution – Every Friday, 1-2 pm. First come, first served basis. May include mattresses, bed frames, chairs, tables etc. Available to Sanibel and Captiva island residents and workforce. Contact Manuela at FISH, 239-472-4775 or
  • Sanibel School Kindergarten Open House Thursday, March 9th from 5:00- 6:00 PM

13 DDWS Conservation Scholarships Available

Application deadline is March 31 for 13 DDWS scholarships amounting to more than $20. Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each, the scholarships are available to high school seniors, college students, and graduate students in or from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties pursuing degrees in environmental-related studies. This year’s named scholarships include READ MORE

Photo caption: Conservation scholarships help replenish our world with young wildlife ambassadors.

Biological Surveys

Routine, bi-monthly biological bird surveys continue at the Refuge despite the current post-hurricane closures. Avery Renshaw, a biotechnician partially funded by DDWS support, uses a scope to count and record species type and quantity. The data is then complied and used to analyze and observe trends.

WoW Update: Middle School Visit

Whereas the WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) typically visits Title-1 elementary schools, using a specific curriculum for each grade, recently the team hit Oak Hammock Middle School in Tice. Here, students discover the visitors who come to stay with the keystone species Gopher Tortoise in its burrow.

“At this grade level, students learn how humans are impacting the environment of Gopher Tortoises and all the other 350 species who rely on the tortoise,” said Melissa Maher, “Ding” Urban Education Leader. “We are linking seventh grade and eighth grade Sunshine State Standards while educating the middle school students. 


WoW, currently the Refuge’s primary education tool while the Visitor & Education Center is closed, operates with a reduced team because of the hurricane’s impact on staffing. Now, more than ever, Refuge community outreach needs your help. Donate today to support the upkeep and programming for WoW efforts. Thank you for helping us spread the conservation message to those with limited opportunities to experience and appreciate wildlife and its habitat.

Remember, profits from all Nature Store sales go directly to the Refuge for educational programs, wildlife research, and overall conservation efforts.

Spotlight: Friends Rebuilding


As a regular feature, “Ding” on the Wing spotlights a business on the islands that has strongly supported the Refuge in the past and now needs us all to rally behind it as it navigates the road to recovery.


For years, Billy’s Bike Shop on Sanibel Island has provided and repaired bikes for “Ding” Darling intern use. It also has provided bike racks at the Visitor & Education Center and often supported fundraising with auction gift certificates. Now, it’s our turn to support Billy’s as it celebrates its reopening.


During the early days after Hurricane Ian, owner Billy Kirkland encouraged those who were staying on the island or coming in by boat without any means of land transportation to grab a bicycle from his Periwinkle Way home base to use. Neighbors and other islanders and businesses often saw him driving his rented tractor (he lost his in the storm) and stopping by to offer help with cleanup and recovery.


The newly reopened rentals operation has single- and multi-speed and hybrid bikes in stock, plus trikes, tandems, surreys, kid’s bikes, and trailers. For the beach, you can rent wheelchairs, walkers, chairs, umbrellas, and its specialty duet bicycle with a wheelchair-style seat in the front. Retail operations have temporarily relocated to Fort Myers.


“Before Ian, Wildlife Drive at the Refuge was the most popular place to ride a bike on Sanibel, per our customers,” said Billy. “They raved about the Education Center, the award-winning bathrooms, and the knowledgeable volunteers throughout the Refuge. After directions, the next most-asked question was 'will we see an alligator?’” (Wildlife Drive is expected to reopen some time in April.)

Solar Co-op Meetings

DDWS is partnering with Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a non-profit co-op whose purpose is to provide residents and businesses in Lee and Collier counties with collective buying power to affordably convert to solar energy.


The co-op has scheduled two in-person meetings in Fort Myers and on Sanibel. Attend either of the FREE events by clicking below to pre-register. Times for the meetings are 6 to 7:30 p.m.


Tuesday, March 14

at All Faiths Unitarian Congregation, 2756 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers


Wednesday, March 15

at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel Island

Call of the Wild Sponsors: Gretchen Banks, Jim & Liz Birmingham, The Bluedorn Family, Jim & Patty Sprankle

Champion Sponsors: Wayne & Linda Boyd, Bill & Laurie Harkey, Jo Smith, In Memory of Boomer Duvin

Guardian Sponsors: Milestone Auctions, Willam & Barbara Millar, Bill & Heather O'Keefe, Doug & Sherry Gentry, Sue & Bob Thoresen

Protector Sponsors: Mike & Terry Baldwin, Tiffani Kaliko & John Silvia

Defender Sponsors: A Friend of the Refuge, HighTower Advisors Fort Myers, Rachel Pierce Art Gallery, Chip & Nancy Roach, Hank & Linda Spire, The Gresham Family, Bob & Kathy Wiesemann, Sanibel Captiva Islander, Paul Harmon, Laura & Shawn Schaffer, Congress Jewlers, Gilah Pomeranz

Refuge Programming & Events

The Visitor & Education Center and Wildlife Drive remain closed due to hurricane damage until further notice. Consequently, many programs and events have been canceled or postponed. Read DOTW for news of activities still being planned.


Photo caption: Archery skills lessons will be a part of March’s Sounds from the Sand and April’s “Ding” Darling Day events.

Wellness Tip


As part of our Nature Wellness Program for 2023, watch here for tips and advice on how to center your mind and improve your wellbeing both outdoors and indoors.


Your Second Childhood: It Can Be a Good Thing

What was your favorite hobby as a child? Perhaps you loved to draw, sing, dance, explore nature, or play sports with your friends. Take a few moments to really think what activity brought the most joy in your childhood and why.


The tip this week is to engage in a hobby or activity that you loved as a child. As we grow older, it is easier to make less and less time for childlike wonder and joy. Children are engaged with the world around them in a way we lose touch with as adults. However, we can keep this childlike joy and presence alive by engaging in the same activities as adults. So, take out your colored pencils, fingerpaint, or play a round of badminton with a friend and bring on the joy!

Show Us Your "Ding" Merch

For a chance to be highlighted in "Ding" on the Wing, send in a photo of yourself wearing "Ding" merch to April Boehnen

Photograph: Frank Kik from Chicago, IL

2022 Photo Contest Winners

"The Whimsical Otter" by Scot Davidow of Bayside, NY took third place.

View a slideshowof this year’s winners and learn information about the 2023 contest.

These are just snapshots of some of the things taking place at your Wildlife Refuge. Please check our website to learn more!


Birgit Miller, Executive Director

"Ding" On The Wing composed by Chelle Koster Walton. Designed by Ali Reece.

Darling Dose of "Ding"

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