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February 9, 2023

Students Return to The Sanibel School Four Months After Hurricane Ian

The Refuge was on hand to welcome back The Sanibel School students to their home campus four months after Hurricane Ian violently dismissed classes. Read all about it here

Hurricane Recovery: National Geographic Coverage

National Geographic editor Brooke Sabin draws on her years and family’s generations as Sanibel Island lovers who visited the Refuge and made indelible memories. She talked with Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland and other island conservation representatives for her poignant article about Sanibel’s rebuilding efforts. Read the article by subscription or free from our website.

Save the Date: Sounds of the Sand

As the Refuge struggles to recover and reopen after Hurricane Ian destroyed much of its habitat and infrastructure, DDWS, in partnership with Bell Tower and Two Lane Lager, presents Sound of the Sands, Saturday, March 25.


The event will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Bell Tower shopping plaza in Fort Myers, featuring local, well-known musicians. Admission is open to the public free of charge.


“Ding” Darling will set up stations with nature games for families and information about the Refuge and its recovery and how to support DDWS in its efforts to help build back and reinforce its conservation education and wildlife and water-quality preservation and research missions. Suncoast Beverage Sales will sell beer, and other Bell Tower merchants will be participating. Keep your eyes open for more details in weeks to come.

Interested in becoming a sponosr for this first event? Email April Boehnen to learn more.

Photo caption: Danny Morgan and Johnny Boy Reggae headline the live entertainment.

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: 

  • Article on homeowners insurance: Florida Weekly: "No PLACE Like Home"
  • Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is now open with limited hours. Read More.
  • Sanibel Public Library is open weekdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Read More.
  • The City of Sanibel opened limited beach park access on February 4. Read More.
  • News-Press: "Is the water at the beach making me sick? 3 common questions and answers" article.

Tarpon Bay Explorers Update

February 1 marked the post-hurricane reopening of Tarpon Bay Explorers, the Refuge concession at Tarpon Bay Recreation Area. On February 13, staff naturalists will again begin offering kayak tours of Commodore Trail Creek every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10 a.m. Call 239-472-8900 to reserve or book ahead online.


Having suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Ian -- including the loss of most of its paddlecraft and all of its pontoon boats, rental bikes, and trams -- TBE is opening in gradual phases. Currently, its popular gift store is also back up and running, and kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent. The ramp is open for nonmotorized vessel launching. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5p.m. (last rentals at 3 p.m.).

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.


Janet M. Strickland, P.A. has been practicing law on Sanibel Island since 2010 and supporting “Ding” Darling in many ways, including sponsorship of the “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament.


Hurricane Ian demolished Janet’s office at The Village Shops, causing her to relocate “for the foreseeable future” to the Treetops Center on Sanibel.


“I was fortunate to save artwork, and also very glad I had previously scanned client documents to drives that I took with me when we evacuated,” Janet said. “I practice estate planning, and I’ve had clients calling me since a few days after the hurricane because they lost their advance directives and other documents in the storm surge. An event like a hurricane also makes a lot of people think about their family affairs, and I am grateful to be able to help them organize their plans and wishes.”


Janet has also participated in the past in a free Estate Planning 101 workshop DDWS hosted to advise participants about the importance of estate planning, how new tax laws affect it, and how to get started with the process. DDWS is planning another such panel in upcoming months with Janet on board.


“’Ding’ Darling is one of the reasons Sanibel is such a special place,” says Janet. “It amazes me every time I go there. We are so lucky to have the best wildlife refuge here, and I am glad to support it and the fantastic people who manage it.”

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

Annual Fundraiser Filling Fast

Reservations for DDWS’ annual fundraiser Go Bully for “Ding” – An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt are open and selling out quickly. Only 70 tickets remain.


The event takes place Monday, March 6, at Broadway Palm in Fort Myers. In consideration of the hardships many island residents and business owners have suffered since the hurricane in September, DDWS has lowered the price of tickets to $75 per person this year. Thanks to all our fabulous sponsors (see below). Learn more about supporting the event as a business or individual.

Current sponsors:

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, Chip & Nancy Roach, Hank & Linda Spire, The Gresham Family, Bob & Kathy Wiesemann, Sanibel Captiva Islander

WoW Update: Duck, Duck

One of the lessons students can learn from the WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) urban outreach classroom is how to draw a duck. That becomes highly important this time of year as students across the state prepare their entries for the Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Normally held at “Ding” Darling, it this year moves to sister refuge Florida Panther NWR as our Visitor & Education Center undergoes hurricane recovery. Deadline for entries is March 15. Email or call (239-940-0169) Ranger Toni Westland for more information.

Watch a video “Ding” rangers created about the contest and how to draw a duck. 


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 the wonder of nature.

Save the Date: ‘Ding’ Darling Day Conservation Carnival 

“Ding” Darling returns to Lakes Park in Fort Myers for its 34th annual “Ding” Darling Day on Saturday, April 22. The Conservation Carnival celebration, in its second year, also observes Earth Day and LeeTran’s Free Transportation Day.


WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) will be at the center of the free “Ding” Darling Day at Lakes Park. Besides tours of the mobile, interactive nature experience, the Refuge and DDWS have planned a full day of Conservation Carnival activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special free outdoor activities include carnival games, prizes, archery, a dunk tank, Earth Day crafts, artist-in-residence programs, guided bilingual birding walks, a biking tour, live music, food, and educational interactions with other local conservation organizations.


“Last year, we moved ‘Ding’ Day to Lakes Park for the first time, and it was a fabulous success,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who chairs the event. “We’re still ironing out the details for this year’s celebration, but expect more fun and enrichment for the entire family.” Watch 

for details as they unfold.


DDWS seeks sponsors for the event, which will be highly publicized throughout the Southwest Florida area. Contact April Boehnen at 239-292-0566 for more information.

Photo caption: Carnival games are designed to educate about wildlife and conservation

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: The "Ding" Darling & Doc Ford's Tarpon Tournament supports water quality and wildlife research.

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.


Putting the Fun into Exercise

The time is always right to create and sustain new, healthy physical habits. We all know the vital role that exercise plays in our mental and physical health, however, it can be hard to get into a consistent routine when it comes to exercise.

The tip this week is to make fun the priority when it comes to exercise. What is your favorite way to move your body? Perhaps it’s a nature walk, jumping rope, swimming, yoga, or dancing. The more fun we can create surrounding our exercising environment, the more likely we are to engage in it again and again. Fun activities (as well as exercise in general) naturally release serotonin and dopamine throughout our bodies, making the activity more memorable and rewarding, thus creating less friction the next time we engage.

Show Us Your "Ding" Merch

What do Costa Rica and Glacier National Park have in common? People have been seen wearing #DingStrong merch at both. For a chance to be highlighted in "Ding" on the Wing, send in a photo of yourself wearing your "Ding" merch to April Boehnen

Bill and Barbara Millar in Costa Rica

Linda Bingemann and her husband in Glacier National Park

Feel-Good Finds

If you have a photo, poem, video, or other feel-good find and you'd like the chance to be highlighted in our "Ding" on the Wing, please email it to April Boehnen .

A Poem by Meghan Prindle



The icicles hang low

in a row

(every inch or so)

out the window

where the orcid grows.

Could be bars

rather, a prism.

Photo by Emily Eagen

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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