February 18, 2019
National Marine Life Center Nets Record Donations for Hospital

August 14, 2009 — The National Marine Life Center, a nonprofit rehabilitation and release hospital for the treatment of stranded sea turtles and seals, based in Buzzards Bay, recently surpassed its annual gala fundraising goal by more than 50%, a record that will help it build a new hospital.

With a few receipts still to be counted, the 2009 Mermaid Ball set a record for fundraising in a single event for the National Marine Life Center (NMLC), surpassing similar events in 2007 and 2008 by more than 50%.

The event raised about $46,000, according to NMLC spokesman Don Lewis, more than the roughly $30,000 collected in each of the previous two years.

The event capped a $100,000 challenge grant campaign to help fund a new marine animal hospital.

NMLC’s hospital, housed at the former Grossman's warehouse in Buzzards Bay, became unusable when the roof buckled in 2007. That set off a building program, launched last May, to create a new marine animal hospital.

The first phase was completed last year and contains is the life support building that pumps natural sea water directly from tidal flushed Cape Cod Canal into patient tanks and pools.

The second phase, now ongoing, involves the building of the marine animal hospital itself; the exo-structure, the utilities infrastructure and the turtle ward. With the completion of the $100,000 Challenge, NMLC will open the marine animal hospital on October 31, in time to receive sea turtles from the fall stranding season.

The third phase, scheduled for next year after completion of a new capital campaign, will build out the marine animal hospital with the seal and cetacean wings to accommodate sea turtles, seals, porpoises, dolphins, and small whales. The completed marine animal hospital will be 15,000 square feet with 14 pools containing more than 100,000 gallons of sea water.

Behind the Successful Fundraiser

Lewis detailed the planning for NMLC’s successful Mermaid Ball:

“In April, four months before the ball, we kicked our media outreach into high gear. We wrote captivating articles about the National Marine Life Center, about our rescue and rehabilitation operations, about our educational programs, about our community outreach, about our new marine animal hospital rising from its foundation and accompanied those words with images as easily importable YouTube videography.

“Each story stood on its own as a newsworthy piece that a paper, a magazine, a broadcast, or a news web site could publish "as is" or could individualize with additional material and interviews. Our goal was a page one story once a month and a published news story at least once a week. We focused on regional media outlets that covered our area.

“As we approached the Mermaid Ball, we included references to the ball as a venue to support the NMLC cause. Then, one month before the event, we wrote and released a series of pre-planned stories specifically aimed at building community interest in the ball itself.

“We aimed for one local television or radio interview a week to tell the story of the National Marine Life Center and to extol Mermaid Ball 2009 as the social event of the season.”

The event, held last week at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, was sold out and featured costumes, cocktails, dinner, dancing, and an auction for the 250 guests.

To support the auction, NMLC upgraded its website so that every item donated for auction could be prominently, graphically displayed with links to the sponsor.

For those who underwrote the Mermaid Ball with money or in-kind donations, NMLC similarly offered highly visible hyperlinks.

Beyond hyperlinks and formal program recognition, NMLC used its increased media outreach effort to highlight important donors and many special donations to approach a broad set of local and regional enterprises to become sponsors of the Mermaid Ball.

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