TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WWAY) — It was graduation day at Topsail Beach for more than two dozen sea turtles.
It’s an annual rite of summer for the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Volunteers loaded up once-injured sea turtles and headed for the beach, where cheering fans greeted the reptiles to watch them hit the water.
The woman behind it all says it’s amazing no matter how many times she does it.
“It’s just like it’s starting over all over again,” Sea Turtle Hospital founder and director Jean Beasley said. “The work and effort we put into every single one of those turtles in monumental.”
After months of treatment, 28 sea turtles passed their exams and are on their way home.
“It’s just joyful, happy, especially for the turtles, but also for the volunteers, because it means we’ve done our job well,” volunteer Karen Sota said. “We’ve gotten those turtles healthy and back out into the ocean where they belong.”
For some, though, it’s a day of mixed emotions.
“It is sad,” volunteer Beth Howard said. “It’s like sending your child off to college or something. You wish them the best, but you always have that little bit of apprehension for them.”
It was a special moment for one family with one special turtle.
“A young man who loved sea turtles was tragically killed in an automobile accident,” Beasley said. “It seemed fitting when we saw this very young, very vibrant, very adorable sea turtle come in, that the right name for the turtle was Griffin.”
Wednesday, Griffin’s twin brother helped carry the namesake loggerhead to the ocean, where his brother’s memory will swim on.
Soon the Sea Turtle Hospital will move into a new building. Beasley says they’ll start moving into the new facility next week with the turtles relocating later this month.