Category Archives: CALENDAR

GCT Extra

Paying it Forward

By: Yohana de la Torre, Chief Editor
Shell Factory & Nature Park has hosted field trips for 15,000 students thanks to the Nature Park Environmental Education Foundation.

Shell Factory & Nature Park has hosted field trips for 15,000 students thanks to the Nature Park Environmental Education Foundation.

The Shell Factory & Nature Park is a Southwest Florida staple and they are all about giving back to the community.

The establishment’s owners, Tom and Pam Cronin and longtime Lee County educator, Richard Dunmire have brought back entertainment and education for the youngest in our area with all-day field trips.

When the school system discontinued field trips several years ago, the Shell Factory and Dunmire took up the task to bring children to the museum and park, compliments of the Nature Park Environmental Education Foundation.

“The foundation raises money with various fundraisers and events such as Gumbo Fest (our largest event of the year), and a Live Auction with all proceeds going back to The Nature Park,” says Rick Tupper, Shell Factory Marketing Director. “This kind of community giveback has helped generate funds for the field trips, which cost an average of $150 to pay for school buses and drivers. And the difference it’s making for area children is immeasurable.”

To date, the Shell Factory has had 15,000 students attend the park, the Shell Museum, Fossil Museum and the Museum of Natural History, compliments of the foundation. They have partnered with about 200+ schools, community organizations, day camps and church groups to give back to the future of our area.

While on-site, the kids get to enjoy a nature park filled with botanical trails and over 350 animals, reptiles, birds and fish. The children not only get to explore the dinosaur park and butterfly garden; they get up close and personal with wildlife. Everything from an Eco Lab with exotic snakes, a Touch Center with Middle East geckos and a Petting Farm with potbelly pigs entertain the youngsters.

In July, the property reached a milestone with Sunshine Elementary School pushing the Shell Factory to their 15,000-student mark. But as Tom Cronin says, the Shell Factory is a “labor of love”, so the entire staff contributes to the labor expenses for the children.

“The field trips are about giving back to the community, teaching and creating memories,” Tupper adds.

And that is what’s important to the Cronin’s. Since they took over the property, the Shell Factory has undergone quite a transformation. A Fossil & Gem Museum, the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, an expansion to the Game Room, renovations to property restaurants, a canine park, improvements to the Nature Park, the soon to open Military Museum and much more have pushed the property back into a family entertainment destination.

“The key to our success is to keep adding and changing. Guests are always surprised by the new and fun things to do, while still maintaining the Old Florida atmosphere they remember as kids. And its paid off…in 2013 we saw an increase of about 15% in revenue and attendance. This year, we are running at a healthy 12%. The Shell Factory is truly a community icon that will continue moving forward and be here for generations to come,” Tupper says.

- The Shell Factory & Nature Park is located at 2787 North Tamiami Trail North Fort Myers, FL. For more information, call (239) 995-3999 or visit!


School Supply Drive

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools invites the community to join in a School Supply Drive. Although school is let out for the summer, when the students return in August, many will not have the tools needed to learn.

More than 70% of students in Lee County qualify for free or reduced lunch meaning their families fall below the federal guidelines for poverty. Due to economic challenges, many families find it difficult to provide basic school supplies for their children. But the School Supply Drive helps ensure that all Lee County District School students have the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom.

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools is holding a supply drive to help families with basic school necessities for the new school year.

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools is holding a supply drive to help families with basic school necessities for the new school year.

Suggested items to collect include:

• Paper (white copy and loose leaf notebook)
• Envelopes
• Index cards
• Pens, pencils, markers, highlighters
• Folders (2 pocket with prongs, plastic preferred)
• Spiral notebooks
• Tissue
• Zip top bags (gallon and sandwich size)
• Wallpaper books
• Craft supplies
• File cabinets
• Book cases, shelves and chairs
•Clocks, cash registers, calculators

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools is also partnering with Edison Mall and Coconut Point Mall, who will be hosting the Apples for Teachers Supply Drive June 15 – August 15, to help provide teachers with the supplies/tools needed to be the best educators they can be. A tree at the malls will be covered with ornaments that note teachers’ wish list items for their classrooms. Mall visitors are encouraged to select an ornament, purchase the item(s) requested, and return the ornament and donated item(s) to Guest Services at either mall by August 15.

- In order to donate to the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools or for more information, call (239) 337-0433 or visit!


Bridal Blast 2014

Bridal Blast 2014 will be held on August 17 at Germain Arena in Estero, FL.

Bridal Blast 2014 will be held on August 17 at Germain Arena in Estero, FL.

The National Association of Wedding Professionals (NAWP) will host Bridal Blast 2014 at Germain Arena on Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 1 – 5 pm.

Bridal Blast is Southwest Florida’s largest bridal show showcasing the areas top wedding professionals, ready to help all blushing brides plan their perfect wedding day.

With over 100 exhibitors, everything from venue options, dresses, hair and makeup, flowers and much more is available to all brides planning their big day! Whether you are shopping, browsing or previewing, the professionals on-site will give you valuable insight and advice on the hottest wedding trends of the year. Sample tasty gourmet cuisine, wedding cakes and chocolates, hear great music and see spectacular décor, as well as the latest bridal fashions!

Brides can register for free admission at and make sure to sign up for the great prizes and take advantage of the money-saving specials throughout the show.

The NAWP was founded in 1989 and helps brides and grooms gain access to information for planning every detail of their wedding from businesses that service the wedding industry. Planning the wedding day of your dreams is not something to be left to chance. And the organization seeks to share their interest in high standards and professional knowledge with every aspect of your wedding pulled off without a hitch.

- Bridal Blast 2014 will take over Germain Arena on August 17 from 1 – 5 pm. Germain Arena is located at 11000 Everblades Parkway in Estero, FL. If you plan to attend Bridal Blast 2014 register at!