January/February 2002

She Has a Way with Wildlife
If you get the chance to hear C.R.O.W. veterinarian PJ Deitschel speak—in person or on one of her many television appearances—don’t miss the opportunity. Deitschel’s engaging enthusiasm is equaled by her knowledge. How many vets, after all, treat nearly 200 species per year? The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.) on Sanibel is a perfect match for this energetic doctor and the wild animals that need her.
    “I had been a wildlife rehabilitator for many years but I felt vets didn’t understand wildlife; you can’t treat a wild animal like it’s a dog or cat,” she explains. She went back to school and completed the veterinarian program at Colorado State University. “I felt I could serve wildlife better as a vet.”
Deitschel came to C.R.O.W. in 1996 as senior vet student and was awarded the first annual internship at the facility. It did not take long to realize that C.R.O.W. was a perfect place to practice her philosophy.
    Much of her job is as a “wildlife detective.” The patients at C.R.O.W. fill out no medical history forms when they arrive and “you can bet there are a lot of mysteries,” she says. “It’s the nature of wildlife rehab. The animal’s history is a mystery, there are no health records, and the injury itself is often unknown. And some of the species, we don’t know much about.”
In addition, her patients can’t communicate with words and they can be dangerous when frightened or in pain. “We had a female bobcat for seven months,” recalls Deitschel. “She was paralyzed from the neck down, but when we released her, she was completely cured.”
    The bobcat was likely a victim of the number-one cause of wildlife injuries—cars. Fishing-line entanglement is the second biggest problem; a tour of the facility includes a giant jar that holds the mess of lines and hooks extracted from injured animals. The third major category of C.R.O.W. patient is orphans—their mothers hit by cars or nests destroyed.
Deitschel practiced for a while in South Africa, where she worked for a foundation that invested in projects to benefit wildlife and indigenous people. The best part of the job, she says, was six months at a rehab center there also known as C.R.O.W., the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, where she worked with baby blue vervet monkeys. “They’re considered vermin but they’re very smart. Unfortunately, they’re hit by cars, they’re orphaned…many of the same problems you might see here.”
When the vet position at C.R.O.W. opened, Deitschel returned to Sanibel. She now spends her days healing up to 3,000 patients per year from Sanibel, Captiva, and throughout Lee County. They include everything from otters to hawks and—with the recent addition of rehab facilities for sea turtles—loggerheads.
    Her message is simple: Have respect for all life. “It’s their home, too,” she says of Sanibel and Captiva’s wildlife. “Accept personal responsibility for their care and their safety. This responsibility is a lesson for all life but certainly on this island, where living with wildlife is a way of life.”–Libby Boren McMillan

Marathon Moms
“Just call us multitasked,” says Lisa Lawler Williams with a laugh, explaining how she and Liz Fowler find time to train as power walkers to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at various marathons. Both Sanibel women work outside the home—Williams as office manager of Times of the Islands and Fowler as executive director of BIG Arts—and are married, have children, and are members of The Sanibel School PTA.
But raising money to find a cure for leukemia and related diseases means a lot to Williams, Fowler, and the additional five members of their energetic team, dubbed “the Sanibel Marathon Moms and Friend.” The other “Moms” are Rita Stauss, JoAnn Paul, Nancy Earl, and Joyce Krivenko; the “Friend” is Richard Finkel, of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Stauss is a power walker; the rest of the team members are runners.
The team has set its sights on the Jan. 6 Disney Marathon in Orlando. Williams happily notes that for this event, each member pledged $1,900 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, raised from “lump donations or sponsored by the mile.”
–Libby Grimm

Helping Kids be Kids Around the World
When Bob Lindman and several friends and colleagues in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, started a sister city program in the Ukraine in 1993, their goal was to “build relationships and see how we could improve municipal services.” They discovered that the real need was for places for children to play.
    “So our exchange group said we’d like to build a playground. We sent materials over in a container and went over a few months later and built it,” says Lindman, who has been a seasonal resident on Sanibel for 18 years.
    That successful venture evolved into Kids Around the World, a nondenominational Christian group that has continued to build playgrounds in the Ukraine as well as in Sarajevo, Africa, India, Cuba, and Honduras. Venezuela is next.
    “We go where we’ve been invited, generally by a church group, city government, or national government. The land is always donated and we try to find local involvement to maintain the grounds,” explains Lindman, who has served on the board of directors. “We do have a mission program if we’re invited to work with local Christian groups, aside from building the playgrounds. We don’t push.”
    Most of the members of Kids Around the World are from Illinois. The group raises funds to buy heavy-duty steel-and-fiberglass playgrounds wholesale for $40,000 to $80,000. Twenty to 60 members pay their own travel expenses to build the playgrounds.
    The group recently raised $35,000 at a banquet in Rockford attended by several hundred people. “We also apply for grants and endowments and just received $80,000 from an insurance company. Appeals go out on a regular basis but some people get tapped too many times, so we need to expand,” Lindman notes. “We’ve had support from other parts of the country and last year we raised a lot of money from folks on Sanibel.
    “We built in Sarajevo right after the fighting ceased. We try to go where the needs are. We’ve been invited by North Korea and are looking into refugee areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Children are the ones who suffer through war and all the political strife. They are the ones who need to be cared for and loved.”
    For further information, call Bob Lindman at 941/472-1578 or visit www.kidsaroundtheworld.com. –Libby Grimm

Working for Others
Victor Mayeron, as co-owner of Captiva’s popular gulf-front eatery The Mucky Duck, has long been a public figure and active member of his community. But for the past few years, he has been putting his public relations and entertainment-oriented talents to work in a wonderfully benevolent direction. Since losing his father, Don, in 1989, Mayeron has served the American Cancer Society’s Lee County Chapter as volunteer, chairman of events, and now as vice president.
    The first annual Don Mayeron Memorial Golf Tournament earned $5,000 for ACS. After the tenth, which earned $70,000, Mayeron took ACS fund-raising in a new direction. In 2000, the Hulaba-Luau, which he cochaired with Nanelle Wehmann and Liddy Johnson, earned $69,000.
    “We used to have 14 to 15 events a year to raise money,” says Mayeron. “Now we do all our fund-raising in three events—the annual gala, the Relay for Life, our signature event, and MSABC (Making Strides Against Breast Cancer), a walk held in October.
    This year’s gala event, Elvis’ Junior Prom, earned $81,000. Mayeron anticipates the June 2002 Florida Cracker Ball will earn $90,000 for ACS; the goal for the 2003 Cattle Baron’s Ball is $225,000. Mayeron’s volunteer work has brought ACS about $400,000 in the 12 years he’s been involved.
    “I live my life as if I have a disease I’m trying to beat,” he says. “I have friends who have beaten cancer, and some who haven’t. If I can do something…” he says, trailing off. “I so believe in the people who have the willpower to fight. Someday their doctor will be able
to say to them, ‘I have the cure you need.’ We’re closer than ever before to that day.”
Mayeron’s hard work and dedication move others to act, such as a friend of his who recently made the largest single donation in many years to ACS—$2 million.
    After September 11, the tireless Mayeron also organized an impromptu benefit for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund called Red White & Blue, United We Stand. Explaining that there would be no auction items, Mayeron said simply, “This event will be not about getting; it will be about giving.”
    For more information about the American Cancer Society, call 941/
936-1113 or visit its Web site at www.cancer.org. –Libby Boren McMillan

Inn a Native Environment
When general manager Linda Logan first came to the Sanibel Inn, she wanted to emphasize island environment. “I wanted to recreate the island at the Sanibel Inn, re-create what people come here for. It was one of my own personal visions.”
    She went into action and in the last five years has guided the conversion of this rather large commercial property to almost 80 percent native vegetation. Logan’s first move was partnering with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), which has a native plant nursery as well as programs and information to help locals “plant native.”
    She then instituted “discovery” programs enabling kids of all ages to learn about island environment while they are on vacation. A staff naturalist was hired and lots of printed material went into the lobby as well as each room. Wherever guests are, “we make sure they’re exposed to something about the environment,” says Logan.
    In October, the property’s lobby sported a hollow palm tree trunk that had finally fallen to tropical winds. “We save the trees once they’re dead because bugs live there and birds eat bugs,” says Logan. “An osprey sat on top of that particular trunk and woodpeckers liked it, too.” The tree, which once held fruit, had hosted a variety of wildlife even after its death and is now on display in its third incarnation—the teaching phase.
    Sanibel Inn has a butterfly garden as well as edible plants from the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) in North Ft. Myers, which works to fight hunger and promote food production throughout the world.
    Logan’s efforts won Sanibel Inn a coveted business award from SCCF. She hopes her efforts encourage other businesses to “go native.” The programs get positive feedback on the Sanibel Inn Web site.
    “You can sit in our gardens, looking at butterflies,” says Logan. “It’s a calm, harmonious place to stay.”–Libby Boren McMillan

Heartfelt Effort
The American Heart Association “is close to my heart because members of my family have succumbed to heart disease,” notes Robbie Roepstorff, of Sanibel. She and her husband, Geoff, cochair the 2002 Heart Ball Executive Committee, which is busy organizing the March 23 event, to be held at Harborside Convention Center in Ft. Myers.
    “We’ve found it works well for a husband-and-wife team to chair the ball,” Roepstorff adds. The couple is known as an accomplished team—she is president and he is chief executive officer of Edison National Bank, home office for Bank of the Islands and Lee County Bank.
    Roepstorff is quick to praise others, saying, “My husband is just as committed as I am, and the executive committee is a wonderful group. Also, the Heart Association staff are so hardworking.”
    Last year’s ball raised nearly $265,000 and the 2002 goal is $285,000. “The net profits are just climbing! I think it’s because we keep a lot of the dollars here for education, such as CPR Day and seminars on using automated external defibrillators,” Roepstorff explains. “The ball has become the county’s black tie social event. Our corporate sponsors really make it happen. We keep only 20 percent of the funds to put on such a fabulous ball. A lot of decorations, lights, and sound are in-kind contributions.” – Libby Grimm

Making Waves is Times of the Islands’ honor roll for Southwest Floridians who, in their everyday lives, make the community and the Lee Island Coast special. If you know of someone who deserves recognition, call us at 941/472-0205 or 941/472-0629.