Longtime volunteer Jack Wheeler was honored at the Paradise Coast Tourism Star Awards as the Volunteer of the Year. The award was presented on August 30, 2018 by Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tourism Star Awards were presented in 12 different categories. Jack Wheeler was among nine nominees in the Volunteer category, finishing ahead of a strong field that included volunteers from the Naples Zoo, TheatreZone, the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, the Hilton Naples, and the Golisano Children's Museum.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's Public Programs Director Sally Stein was among 10 nominees in the Attraction Service Star category.
The ceremony was held at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.
Below is the text of the nomination:
"Jack Wheeler’s volunteer service at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary involves being here (with few exceptions) every day of the week – and that’s been going on for years. In addition to being a Boardwalk naturalist, Jack and his wife Thelma (she in a wheelchair) walk the boardwalk every day to remove fallen branches from its surface. And Jack clears – using long grabbers – any wayward water bottle or trash from the boardwalk and waters of the swamp.
And this year, he took on Hurricane Irma … at least he took on the task of putting our boardwalk back together after Irma made a direct hit here.
Corkscrew’s long loop of the boardwalk didn’t fully reopen until December 7, 2017, nearly three months after the storm. Irma knocked out more than two dozen sections of the boardwalk on September 10, 2018, tossing ancient Bald Cypress Trees across it. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which normally welcomes visitors every day of the year, had to close its doors as repairs were made. At the request of Sanctuary Director Jason Lauritsen, Jack served as the linchpin of the repair crews. Behind Jack’s carpentry skills and strong leadership, the teams of mostly volunteers were able to get the short loop (one mile) reopened on October 6, 2017, and the whole boardwalk (2.25 miles) reopened for visitors on December 7, 2017.
Jack has been a volunteer for 25 years and has more than 11,000 hours of service at Corkscrew.”
Here’s a link to the Naples Daily News story about the awards ceremony.