What a fun article from Jeff Lysiak and our friends at the Island Sun!
When Beth Musser, owner of the Sanibel Sweet Shoppe, arrived for work a few weeks ago, she had no idea that she would be taking part in a new “game” that is catching on across the country.
“I went out in front of the shop that morning to put out the flag when I saw something sitting on a bench,” said Musser. “At first, I thought some kids had left their shell behind by mistake, but then I turned it over and saw the Sanibel Shells Facebook name written inside.”
When Musser conducted a search for the group on Facebook, she learned of the fun and free activity that was started recently by two frequent visitors to the island: Ursula Purvis and Nina Brown.
“We are two retired elementary school teachers that live in Jacksonville, Florida and that have been great friends since the early ‘80s,” said Brown. “The two of us discovered Sanibel in 2006 and have been returning for one week every summer since then, leaving behind our families and our cares. We share a love of the ocean, shelling, crafting and teaching.”
According to Brown, the friends started the Sanibel Shells Facebook page in late May after hearing about the Duval Rocks Facebook page – based in Duval County/Jacksonville – which features a similar activity in which people decorate rocks with paint and messages, leaving the mementos behind in public places for others to discover on their own.
Earlier this year, a Sanibel Rocks group launched their own version of the game. In under three months, the Facebook group has grown to more than 135 followers. “One day, a lightbulb went off and it occurred to us that we could meld this idea with our love of shelling, crafting and Sanibel,” said Brown, who noted that she and Purvis have a plentiful supply of locally-collected dosinia shells. “When the weather outside was frightful and we couldn’t go to the beach, we began painting.”
Before long, the friends had produced almost 100 individually painted shells.
“We love exploring the island, so we tried to leave a few shells everywhere we went,” said Purvis. “We did forget to drop them off at a few places. Love seeing the smiles from the kids that found them. We hope that there will be enough people to continue hiding, finding and possibly re-hiding to keep it going.”
“We encourage folks to paint, find, move, re-hide and simply enjoy the shells,” added Bown. “Already, some shells have left the state and we hope to see pictures of their new hiding places.”
Painted shells from Sanibel have been shared by people from Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Idaho and Pennsylvania.
Purvis explained that she enjoys seeing pictures posted on the group’s Facebook page, and she encourages people to use the hashtage #sanibelshells before they hide them. “Everyone loves to know when his or her shells are found, but please understand that not everyone is on social media. This is more about making someone smile than it is Facebook recognition,” she added. “We thought it would be a fun and positive way for lovers of Sanibel and shells to share their love and ‘pay it forward!’”
To join the shell lovers, click here!