Post-Irma Clean Up Profile - Caryn and Chris

For some it was the movie Jaws to make them fear swimming. Others it may have been lack of opportunity or a traumatic event that prevented them learning to swim.  Of all the High Adventure programs various requirements, the swimming requirement is not negotiable at Sea Base.

When Caryn Kanel’s kids wanted her to participate in the Coral Reef trip but she resisted. “Overcoming the mental hurdle was just too great. Now, however, I needed to face my fear and actually learn (how to swim),” said Caryn.  Through her faith and hard work, she passed the swimming test and learned to snorkel. She was then ‘able to freely experience the incredible Florida Keys with her son without anxiety or hesitation.’ An adventure they would never forget sharing together.

When Caryn watched the reports of Irma battering the Keys she felt a tug. “Simply put, when the call for clean up help from Hurricane Irma came through, I felt called to give back,” Caryn shared.  She knew the struggles she had overcome to attend the program and wanted that opportunity to be there for anyone else who wanted to attend. “Being able to prepare Sea Base properties for future adventures hopefully makes possible for someone else to leave the Keys having experienced physical, mental, emotional - or spiritual growth, just like I did.”

Chris Jansen was glued to the TV/Internet when he realized Harvey was going to hit the Keys. He was already trying to think of ways to assist. He invited other friends and family who had previously worked for FSB to volunteer, but Chris and his brother Nick were the only two able to swing it.  Both self-employed, they closed their offices the week of Thanksgiving and headed south.

Before Chris arrived, he thought about local troops and what their programs had lost.  He reached out and found two troops local to the bases. He started a GoFundMe to begin to replace troop equipment. “We were able to purchase and send tents, camp stoves, cook kits, and utensils to the troops based upon their report of needed items,” explained Chris.  “Some of these scouters, 70+ days later, are still homeless, trying to rebuild, haven’t had the chance to assess everything. They may need more later.”

While at Brinton Environmental Center Caryn was able to help restore Big Munson. She worked with other volunteers and staff to give back to the place where she had grown so much. “(Volunteering) on Big Munson and at B.E.C. was extremely rewarding, gratifying, and restorative. Making even a small difference in comparison to the months of work put in by the dedicated staff gave me purpose,” Caryn reflected of her time on Munson.  Chris reported,” In many ways, it appeared as though a bulldozer was driven through (the island), showing that mother nature and water, has that kind of power. It was amazing that all of the trees were stripped of vegetation, appearing to leave nothing behind.  The island was a stark grey and brown, very bleak.  Then you noticed new growth with small leaves and sprouts, movement from crabs and other lifeforms, you realize that life is returning. “ Thanks to volunteers and staff stories abound of new growth and preparations for returning scouts. 

Caryn has visited all four of the High Adventure programs. She says each has impacted her tremendously, challenging her physically, mentally, and emotionally. The tug of Sea Base is strong, however. She said it brought her ‘the richest spiritual growth.’  

While volunteering, Chris was reunited with a former staffer that he worked with in the summer of 2000. “It was a complete surprise running into him when we arrived, I had no idea he would be present,“ Chris was happy to report. Together, former staff, former adult leaders/participants, and visitors banded together and began the cleanup process.  The scouting spirit is alive and very strong in SBAFA members, volunteers, and staff members.  Sea Base will continue to provide adventures that create a lifetime of memories for all who experience any aspect of the program.

Written by Suzanne Tiernan with input via email from volunteers at the Florida Sea Base.