We at Coral Restoration Foundation™ are immensely grateful for our donors and the support that they offer us. This edition of REEFeature focuses on a former outdoor educator and longtime diver who has been happily supporting CRF™ for five years: Cindi Clapp.
Cindi Clapp (center, wearing a purple shirt) gives to CRF™ through a Donor-advised fund.
Cindi joined us on a Dive Program as part of a college course she took as an adult on field biology, and by the end of the day, she was hooked. It was a “powerful and empowering” experience and she wanted to know more about what she had just been through and if we needed any help doing it.
She first learned about the dire plight of coral reefs while living on a sailboat with her husband and two children, sailing from Boston down through the Bahamas, the Caribbean Island chain, and back. Homeschooling her children reinforced in her mind the impact that hands-on learning has on everybody.
“I had been interested [in coral reefs] before but there’s nothing like living on a boat and having your morning wake-up routine be snorkeling around the hull of your boat and coming back up and playing a game of identifying what fish you saw. So, with mornings starting like that, we became very interested in and very informed about what was going on below our boat.”
Sailing between these different islands, Cindi became painfully aware how much healthier protected reefs were from the rest. Seeing the death and the impact that humans are having on this amazing ecosystem scared her, and she wanted to do something about it.
“Having snorkeled on a reef that was vibrant and then a week later being someplace and snorkeling in an area that was all bleached, it was devastating and dramatic. I had this sense of urgency. I feared that there would be a point where people would not see this and know what was here, that we would lose it.”
With her background in therapeutic, outdoor education, it’s no surprise that Cindi felt drawn to our Education Program. When asked about why she gives specifically to education, this is what she said:
“Education is important because learning about something and understanding it helps to develop a commitment to address and resolve problems. Education is where change and progress happens. If we don’t educate and teach other people, and particularly younger people, this knowledge will get lost and then ultimately our reefs will be gone.”
After participating in her first Dive Program, Cindi immediately wanted other people to share in the experience. “You can’t change someone’s mind with just words,” she insists. “They have to feel, touch, and experience it in order to understand how these reefs are in danger and the importance of saving them.”
Programs like the CRF™ Dive Program allow people to truly feel their impact. Some people may think that saving coral reefs isn’t a priority, “But if we can help get [people] underwater or get into a room with critters, we can help them see it. And once you know, you can’t forget. You can’t un-know.”
Cindi is a hands on learner and knows that the biggest impacts from education come from feeling, touching, and seeing the things you study!
This emphasis on education permeates both Cindi’s personal life and her commitment to CRF™. She tries to educate those around her about the impact that humanity has on the natural world and why it’s important that they care. She couldn’t stop smiling as she talked about hearing from her friend, Harry, that he had done a program with CRF™ at SeaBase with our new Scouts Dive Program.
CRF™ operates an education program with the Boy Scouts at their Islamorada location, Seabase.
“And my brain just went ‘yes! It’s spreading.’ I felt like two worlds had come together for me: what I do with my philanthropy side and then my personal, fun side. I’m like ‘wow, Harry. Yes, I know that program!’ So that was wonderful for me to hear, just out in the world, that connection.”
MAKING AN IMPACT
Like many of our donors, Cindi donates through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). This method of giving is sometimes overlooked because it seems difficult to start. However, Cindi wholeheartedly disagrees. Coming from a very philanthropic family, she takes the responsibility of donorship very seriously. Her advice to those wanting to give in this way starts with a recommendation to work with a financial advisor, something she says was quite easy, and then the actual giving is very simple. Her most important piece of advice, however, is that you “make every effort to have your giving be in line with your passion.”
As a woman who cares deeply about the world, Cindi understands that there are countless causes deserving of attention. Money could make a difference to so many organizations, but Cindi has been donating to CRF™ for five years now and has no plans of stopping.
“I don’t wonder if I make a difference; I know that I’m making am. That is the reason I give."
Cindi gives to our Education Program specifically through her donor-advised fund.
"It is important to me personally in my giving that I know that it’s making a difference. If I don’t know that, then I’ll seek another place. When I am informed consistently and as passionately as Martha [Roesler] has on the impact that my giving has had, I was moved to continue because it is clear that my giving has had an impact.”
TO YOU, THE READER
Cindi gives because she wants others to see how the reefs are dying and be inspired to protect this unique and valuable ecosystem. While caring about our oceans and the state of our reefs as deeply as Cindi Clapp may be a tall order, there is nothing stopping you from getting involved and educating yourself and those around you.
Everybody should care about the danger our coral reefs are in and know the impact that human activities have on them. We are all interconnected on one Earth and “when our oceans start suffering and the animals and plants that live in our oceans start suffering, it has an impact for the rest of the world above the water.”
Getting involved and learning hands-on is the best way to understand this ecosystem, its importance, and the danger it’s in. Working around and learning about the threats our reefs face can easily discourage a person and make them lose hope. Cindi would want someone to know:
“There is hope. It is working. We are replicating coral and it’s living. Coral is being replanted on existing reefs and it’s growing! The work being done at Coral Restoration Foundation is making a difference in our oceans.”
To date, CRF™ has returned more than 170,000 corals to Florida’s Coral Reef and restored 17,500 square meters of reef area—about the size of two and a half football fields! Our divers spent more than 3,000 hours underwater in 2021 doing scientific research and restoration work in our nurseries and on the reefs.
Corals returned to the wild by CRF™ provide new, healthy habitat for fishes and other marine life.
Cindi believes that the future of CRF™ and restoration lies in its obscurity; she hopes that one day it won’t be necessary, and our reefs will be flourishing on their own. The knowledge CRF™ has gathered will continue to spread across the globe.
Cindi Clapp hopes to join us for another Dive Program this winter, and we can’t wait to have her out with our team. We are deeply grateful for her constant and impassioned support of our work and feel honored that someone as dedicated to donorship continues to choose Coral Restoration Foundation™. We are lucky to have such a passionate a vocal advocate spreading our message to the world.
"REEFeature" Editorial Intern: Tessa
A recent graduate of Skidmore College, Tessa has a BA in English and Environmental Studies. They grew up in Wilton, in southwestern Connecticut, but spent their summers either hiking and camping in the woods or swimming and sailing on the water. They have always been passionate about climate change and conservation. Diving for the first time in 2014 while taking a marine conservation course in the Caribbean leeward islands, they quickly amassed dives and got their PADI Instructor certification just three years later.
After completing their instructor training, they spent a month on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting research on reefs. They later channeled their distress at the degradation of the reefs to write a short story about coral bleaching, which was published in Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review in 2020. Their capstone thesis built on this theme and they wrote a collection of four creative short stories that detail and exemplify climate change-induced environmental damage through a narrative lens. They aim to combine their degrees and experiences to make a career in science communications, making research and conservation accessible to everybody.
Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. Madalen comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, and communications.
Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.
Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.