Handled with care: Myrtle Beach Blue Star Mothers pack “hero” boxes for troops overseas

In a few weeks, several service members will get a welcome surprise at mail call courtesy of the Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina.

“We want to make sure that they know we are thinking about them,” said Carol Dion, vice president of Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina.

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Packed boxed are taped up and ready to be shipped.                                                Photo: Sharon Tutrone

More than 30 volunteers spent a Saturday morning packing over 100 boxes. The boxes will head to our servicemen and women who are away from home. Each box contains comforts of home like toiletries, cookies, magazines, and soup. Although the boxes will not bring families closer together, they will offer some familiar comforts.

“Our ultimate goal is to send them a little piece of home. They will open a box and see a package of Oreos. If you are in a God forsaken place you are not going to get Oreos,” said Dion.

Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina is a non-profit organization made up of parents who have children serving our country in the Armed Forces. The group frequently gets together to pack boxes to send to our troops. The boxes are sent to deployed troops but mailing the boxes are not cheap. To ship one box cost $17.95 and the post office does not offer a discount. So the Blue Star Mother of Coastal Carolina depends upon the generosity of the community to help them fulfill their mission.

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Volunteers pack summer “hero” boxes Photo: Sharon Tutrone

“We have two more packings that we want to do. We do a Halloween and a Christmas packing,” said Dion. “At this point, we may be a little bit short at the end of the year for our Christmas packing.”

Dion says every penny collected goes towards the troops.

Wayne Talaber with the VFW Riders Murrells Inlet not only stopped by to help pack boxes but made a donation on his group’s behalf.

“Our Veterans and our active military are the biggest things for us. We support them 100 percent, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that these keep going,” said Talaber.

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A member of the VFW Riders Murrells  Inlet donates to the Blue Star  Mother of Coastal Carolina.                                     Photo: Sharon Tutrone

For others, this event was a chance for parents to teach their child a lesson about helping others.

“They are fighting for our country, and they are overseas and can’t get stuff like this,” said Lilly Lawson, Volunteer. “It makes me feel really good that we are helping someone else.”

If you would like to help The Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina cover shipping costs, you can head to their website http://www.bluestarmothersofcoastalcarolina.com/ to find out how to donate.


What lies beneath is always a surprise to one Marine Biologist

Fishing can be considered a game of cat and mouse. You feel the rush when there is that tug on your line and cannot wait to see what is on the other end.

Now, imagine that feeling if you are a marine biologist on a shark tagging trip.

“The first ones are always one of the most special ones,” said Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist at Coastal Carolina University. “We never know what we are going to pull up when we set a long line. Or what we will see when we are on the way to set a long line.”

Abel,  who has more than 30 years of experience researching sharks, has been shark tagging in Winyah Bay for more than 15 years. He started the program to give his undergraduate and graduate students a chance to study Juvenile Sandbar sharks.

Abel says shark tagging allows researchers the chance to study the movements of these ocean predators and why they like to frequent certain waters over others. The sharks can have a tag placed near the shark’s dorsal fin, or they can have an acoustic telemeter inserted into the abdomen of the shark.

Acoustic telemeters are little pingers that ping every 60 to 90 seconds. For researchers to get information on where the shark is, it has to go by an acoustic receiver.

Abel says Winyah Bay is so diverse and offers many surprises every time they head out to fish.

“What’s always surprising to me is the diversity and abundance of sharks and the size range in such a small ecosystem,” said Abel. “Winyah Bay has a very large watershed. It drains 18-thousand square miles, but the bay itself is not that large for it to have that many sharks and rays inhabiting it.”

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Infographic made by Sharon Tutrone using Animaps.com

Think of Winyah Bay as a hunting ground, where it comes down to the survival of the fittest.

“We have learned there is a mix of sharks within the bay, and they tend to divide themselves so the small ones can find safety and the big ones can find plenty of prey and room to swim around,” said Abel.

So, what is the draw for the sharks?

“We have learned that most of the sharks like high salinity waters, so it’s an estuary,” said Abel.


Students measure the salinity of the water in Winyah Bay.                                           Photo: Sharon Tutrone

Salinity is the amount of dissolved salts that are present in water. It is that salinity that Abel says plays a role in why sharks visit Winyah Bay.

“The sharks will divide themselves based on salinities. Most of the big sharks, the oceanic or the near coastal sharks like high salinities,” said Abel. “Some of the smaller life stages we see will move up the river, and that will protect them from the bigger sharks.”

Salinity levels in Winyah Bay fluctuate because it has four rivers dumping into it.

“When there is a lot of rain in the water shed, the fresh water coming out can be quite significant which can lower the salinities, and not many sharks can live in low salinities,” said Abel.

To follow Abel and his students on their shark tagging trips to Winyah Bay click on the Coastal Carolina Shark Research team page on Facebook.



Should we be afraid of sharks? No way says Myrtle Beach shark expert

Sharks. For some, the mere word is scary enough to avoid the Atlantic Ocean on a hot summer day.

The fear is real and has a name. The condition is known as galeophobia.

Whether you believe it or not, when you step into the ocean you are literally swimming with the fishes. These ocean predators coexist peacefully with surfers and sun bathers, and chances are you are not even aware of their presence.

In fact, very few are lucky enough to meet one of these majestic marine beasts.

According to Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist at Coastal Carolina University, sharks should be embraced.

“People fear sharks when they should respect them. When you go to the beach you should be comforted knowing there are sharks swimming in the surf line,” said Abel. “A healthy ocean needs its sharks so we shouldn’t fear them.”

Abels says humans are the sharks biggest threat. Humans catch them for their fins, that is used in shark fin soup, or they are caught and used as trophies.

Abel knows what he is talking about; he has been studying sharks for more than 30 years. Every year he holds a semester at sea where students get an up close and personal look at these guardians of the ocean.

Abel started a research program more than 15 years ago that takes a group of undergraduate and graduate marine biology students out to Winyah Bay to study Juvenile Sandbar Sharks.

Abel says most of the time sharks have no interest in humans. Yes, sharks are predators, but none of them have humans as a regular prey on their menu. Sharks prefer smaller fish like squid and shrimp. But Abel says, there are some things you can do to prevent a trip to the hospital.

“Don’t swim at dawn or dusk. That is when many sharks feed,” said Abel. “Avoid swimming near piers where people are fishing and if you see a school of fish, get out of the water.”

What about that fin above the water line, does that mean a shark is coming after you?

“No, that does not mean they are coming after you. Most of the time people see a wave or a dolphin,” said Caroline Collatos, a graduate student in the marine science department. “Sharks rarely do this, and when they do, they may be chasing prey that swam up to the surface.”

Again, there is a small chance that a shark will bite you, but if you do go in the ocean here are some more tips to make that risk even lower.

Sink your teeth into some shark tagging facts as Shark Week approaches

It’s that time of year to feed your shark feeding frenzy appetite. Shark week is just around the corner and for some researchers, studying and tracking sharks happens year-round, not just one week out of the year.

Shark tagging allows researchers the chance to study the movements of these ocean predators and why they like to frequent certain waters over others. The sharks can have a tag placed near the shark’s dorsal fin, or they can have an acoustic telemeter inserted into the abdomen of the shark.

Acoustic telemeters are little pingers that ping every 60 to 90 seconds. For researchers to get information on where the shark is, it has to go by an acoustic receiver.

OCEARCH is one of the most well-known shark tagging groups around. They work mostly with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks. Presently, the group is conducting their 29th exhibition off the Jersey Shore.

Chris Fisher is known for his work with OCEARCH. Since 2007 Fisher has tagged many great whites, who have become local favorites, especially here in South Carolina. Fischer sets up a Twitter handle for all his sharks so they can “communicate with people.” You can access all the shark’s Twitter handles through Fischer’s Twitter account.

One of the most popular sharks that people like to track is Mary Lee. She was tagged in September of 2012 off the coast of Cape Cod. To see her tagging video click here.

According to the global shark tracker, Mary Lee has traveled almost 40,000 miles since she was tagged, many of her travels have taken her off the coast of South Carolina. Through her tag, researchers were able to tell if she was pregnant just by her movements and where she would spend time during certain times of the year.

The tagging process must run efficiently. According to OCEARCH, it should only take 15 minutes to get the shark onboard, tagged and back into the water.

This research is not only happening in the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean. There are also tagging efforts happening right off the coast of South Carolina. Marine Biologists with Coastal Carolina University focus on the smaller resident sharks that call Winyah Bay home.

Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist with CCU, started the research program more than 15 years ago. He takes a group of undergraduate and graduate marine biology students out to Winyah Bay to study Juvenile Sandbar Sharks.

Caroline Collatos, a graduate student in the marine biology department at Coastal Carolina University, tells us the process to catch a shark is precise. According to Collatos, students bait 25 hooks on a line that is 150 meters long. The line has floats and anchors at both ends. Once the lines are in the water, they soak for 30-45 minutes. The students then hand pull the line in, hoping they have a shark on one of the hooks.


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Photo: CCU Shark Research Team Facebook page

Recently the Coastal Carolina Shark research team caught a small spinner shark that was just weeks or months old. The team was able to conclude this by an umbilical scar still visible on the shark.

This catch helped marine biologists determine that Winyah Bay is, in fact, a secondary nursery, meaning it is a place where baby sharks grow up.

Click on the following links for more information on OCEARCH or the Coastal Carolina Shark Research team.

Sharks of Coastal South Carolina. Why is Winyah Bay such a popular spot for these ocean predators?

Many who live in Myrtle Beach have heard of Winyah Bay. It is where the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Black and the Sampit River all drain into South Carolina.

But did you know it also makes for a great place to raise kids? Shark “kids” that is.

“Winyah Bay is a primary and secondary nursery. A primary nursery is where an animal will go and give birth, and a secondary nursery will be where that baby then grows up,” said Caroline Collatos, a graduate student in the marine science department at Coastal Carolina University.

Collatos believes that Winyah Bay is a secondary nursery for three different species of sharks.

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Baby Blacktip shark caught in   Winyah Bay. Shark was tagged and released.                                Photo: Sharon Tutrone

“The evidence we collected is showing us that this bay provides an area for these juveniles to grow up and hopefully become sexually reproductive and add to the population,” said Collatos.

Sharks move due to the change of season. Some sharks are more tolerant to colder or warmer temperatures which decide when they leave an area.

“Winyah Bay has both cold water and warm water species. In the winter we have two different species that use the bay. They are spiny dogfish and smooth dogfish sharks,” said Collatos. “In the summer, we have four species that use the bay frequently; the most dominant species is the Juvenile Sandbar shark.”

Collatos says a lot of juvenile sharks that grow up in Winyah Bay eventually move out to coastal areas. But they have also seen older sharks make their way into the bay as well.

“We also have a lot of older adult sharks that come into Winyah Bay to feed on smaller sharks or other prey,” said Collatos.

Sharks are not the only mammal that heads to Winyah Bay to mate. Recently the CCU Shark research team caught a female stingray that had two males trying to mate with her as the team brought her in on the fishing line.

So why are the waters of Winyah Bay so attractive to sharks? It is a question Coastal Carolina marine biologists are hoping to answer through their tag and release program.

Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist with CCU, started the research program more than 15 years ago. He takes a group of undergraduate and graduate marine biology students out to Winyah Bay to study Juvenile Sandbar Sharks.

“One of our aims is to simply look at the demographics of shark populations,” said Abel. “What factors influence the presence and absence and the diversity of sharks in ecosystems.”

The process of tracking sharks is tedious and precise. Abel and his students bait 25 hooks on a line that is 150 meters long. The line has floats and anchors at both ends. Once the lines are in the water, they soak for 30-45 minutes. The students then hand pull the line in, hoping they have a shark on one of the hooks.

Long lines are baited with Mackerel. Photo: Sharon Tutrone


“Acoustic telemeters are little pingers,” said Abel. “We make a two-inch incision in the abdomen and put a double A battery-sized instrument inside, sew it back up, and it will ping every 60 to 90 seconds. For us to get information on where the shark is, it has to go by an acoustic receiver. Fortunately, there’s a ray of receivers up and down the coast and worldwide.”

Acoustic tagging allows CCU students to track the movements of return visitors to Winyah Bay.

Besides the tagging trips to Winyah Bay, Dr. Abel takes his students every May to the Shark Lab in Bimini, which is located in the Bahamas. Abel says the students get an up close and personal look at the sharks and the stingrays. Abel says everything they learn in Bimini prepares them for their Winyah Bay tagging trips.

To learn more about the Coastal Carolina shark research team’s findings, click here.


Myrtle Beach woman beats breast cancer and shares her emotional story to save lives

You have cancer. Three words no one ever wants to hear. But for one Myrtle Beach woman, that was her reality.

Instead of giving up, she fought back and shared her story to not only create awareness but help someone who might be facing the same battle she fought and won.

Patricia’s biggest piece of advice is don’t wait. If something doesn’t feel right, go get it checked right away.

For more information contact the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen.


The sound of freedom is loud and proud for one Myrtle Beach swim coach

Freedom. What does the word mean to you?

Many will agree that freedom means living in a free country. Some, although will not admit it, take this luxury for granted because they cannot imagine NOT living in a free society. Since, freedom, is all they ever knew.

But for millions, the struggle is real to get a taste of what Americans enjoy every day of our lives. Many have spent sleepless nights dreaming about the day they can call the United States of America home.

“I love America, God Bless America. It upsets me sometimes when people take for granted their freedom,” said Eleonora Rumbaugh, swim coach at Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach. “They just think they are entitled to everything. At home, we have to work hard to get the small things.”

Rumbaugh was born in Bulgaria. She says she had a wonderful childhood, but it was when she became an adult that she realized her country changed.

“I started realizing that our country was not as great anymore. There was corruption, and there was a lot of crime,” said Rumbaugh. “When I went to college, I just felt that was my country, but that is not where I wanted to live anymore and build a family.”

So, she decided to pursue her dream to make a better life for herself and move to the United States of America.

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Nora Rumbaugh works    with Chip Parrot at the Claire Chapin Epps Family          YMCA in  Myrtle Beach.     Photo: Sharon Tutrone

Rumbaugh’s passion is swimming. It was that passion which turned out to be her golden ticket to freedom. She has been swimming since kindergarten and competitively for ten years.

“I came here on a student visa; it’s called a J-1. It gives a lot of opportunity to students to see how the lifestyle is here, to work here, to travel as well,” said Rumbaugh. “Once I got here, I said that was it. I love that country, and I decided to stay.”

A short time later the American Red Cross contacted the Bulgarian Red Cross, which Rumbaugh belonged since she was a lifeguard on the Black Sea. When Red Cross officials asked if she wanted to go to the United States to become a lifeguard, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I said that’s my dream so let’s go,” said Rumbaugh.

Rumbaugh arrived in America in 2003 and was sworn in as a United States citizen in 2011.

“That was the happiest moment in my life. We got sworn in, in Charleston and I just cried through the whole ceremony,” said Rumbaugh. “The process was tough, but everything was worth it because that was the best moment of my life.”

Today you will find Rumbaugh sharing her love for swimming by teaching others.

One of those learning from Rumbaugh is Triathlete Chip Parrot.

“Her confidence in me is what made me want to work hard,” said Parrot. “She is passionate about what she does which makes me want to work hard.”

Parrot had to face his fears before stepping into the water, and he had to learn to trust Rumbaugh.

“When we first started, I wanted to tell her that I haven’t been in the water for a long, long time and she smiled and said everything is going to be fine,” said Parrott. “I needed to hear that because it is intimidating to get in the water, especially to swim laps, not just playing around.”

While Rumbaugh is thankful to call the United States home, Parrot is grateful that she worked hard to get here. Because without her passion for swimming, he would not be half the athlete he is today.

“I am very lucky and blessed to have her; we have a good time out there swimming,” said Parrot.

For more information on swim lessons at the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA click here.

Myrtle Beach restaurant hosts “Party on the Patio” to help local Blue Star Mothers


One of the goals of the Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina is to make sure no service member is forgotten. One way they do this is by mailing hero boxes overseas, but that costs money.

That’s where a local restaurant has stepped in to help ease their financial burden.

“I want to be that restaurant owner where someone can say we are in a tight jam right now and need some help. If the cause is worthy we are there,” said Tim McGinnis, owner of The Famous Toastery.

Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina, is a group of women whose children are serving or have served in the United States military.

“Our primary function is to support each other,” said Carol Dion, vice president of Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina. “Nobody knows how you feel when your kid is deployed, like a mother who has been through that.”

The group organizes several events throughout the year to make sure our service members are not forgotten. They place wreaths each December at the Florence National Cemetery, organize Operation Welcome Home and pack hero boxes for troops overseas

“We send out boxes to any of the troops that are deployed. Not only our kids but anybody who gives us an address. If their kid is deployed they get a box,” said Dion.

But that costs money.

“It costs us over $17 for each box that we mail. We do that primarily four times a year,” said Dion. “We usually send somewhere between 100 boxes each time.”

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The Famous Toastery hosts a “Party on the Patio” to benefit the Blue Star Mothers of Coastal                  Carolina.                      Photo: Sharon Tutrone

The Famous Toastery recently held a fundraiser for the group to help offset some of the shipping cost. The restaurant donated $2 from every $10 meal sold during the “Party on the Patio” fundraiser.

“We thought what better way to give back to them so they can continue to do the awesome stuff that they do to send packages overseas to our troops,” said McGinnis.

Dion’s daughter, retired Army Staff Sergeant Melissa Dion, was deployed twice to Iraq. She knows how receiving a package can move mountains when it comes to boosting morale.

“That was just the greatest feeling knowing that I could help them get some mail,” said Melissa. “There are a lot of families who can’t afford it. It’s not cheap, and the post office doesn’t give these families a discount.”

The group will pack boxes at the end of June to send out for the 4th of July holiday.

The Blue Star Mothers of Coastal Carolina are always looking for names of deployed troops to send boxes. For more information on how you can help, just click here.

Myrtle Beach parking battle could be deciding factor in November elections

It’s a battle that has been brewing for more than a year, and it could reach a boiling point in November when Myrtle Beach residents go to the polls.

“We have a lot of city residents who want to vote the mayor and some city council members out in November,” said Rich Malzone, a spokesman for Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe. 

Malzone is the driving force behind the advocacy group, Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe.

“Our group is mostly tourists, full-time residents and part-time residents who live a block from the ocean and can’t park,” said Malzone.

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Rich Malzone, spokesman for Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe promises to fight paid parking until a compromise is reached.    Photo: Sharon Tutrone

The group went from idea to reality in July of 2016 after Myrtle Beach city officials implemented parking regulations along the Golden Mile, which stretches from 31st Avenue North to 53rd Avenue North.

Residents who live outside the city limits and tourists pay $2 an hour or $10 a day to park on this stretch of road.

The city instituted paid parking in that area because residents there complained of visitors parking in their yards and disrupting the neighborhood.

“We want fair access to the beach,” said Malzone. “The city is turning the beach into a private beach for those who live on the Golden Mile. It is those residents who are also donors to these campaigns of the mayor and the city council.”

Malzone is hoping the city and the group can meet in the middle.

“We need the mayor and the city council to approach us and say let’s work out a compromise this year, not wait until after the election,” said Malzone.

Malzone is hoping the city will compromise by offering a $100 non-resident parking pass which will be valid for all residents outside the city limits and part-time residents. Malzone said that pass should also be valid for all city metered parking spaces.

“The City of Myrtle Beach has decided to go to war with 200,000 people. Their best customers, the ones who support the city in November, December, January, and February,” said Malzone. “The city has gone to war with them over 400 parking spots.”

Malzone says until they hear from the city, he along with the more than four thousand members in the group will continue to fight the fight to bring “free” back to parking.

The parking ordinance remains in effect until October 31st.

Indoor cycling gives Parkinson’s patients hope in Myrtle Beach

Pedaling a bicycle may seem like a simple task, but it could change the life of someone living with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain. In time, the disease affects muscles throughout the body, leading to stiffness and slowing of movement.

A recent study done by the Cleveland Clinic showed a 35% reduction in symptoms just by pedaling a bicycle at 80-90 revolutions per minute.

“Exercise is like medicine. It just makes you feel better,” said Deanne Vinson, health and wellness director at Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA.

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Pedaling for Parkinson’s coming to Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach in June. Photo: Sharon Tutrone

Beginning in June, the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach will offer a Pedaling for Parkinson’s class aimed to help those living with the disease.

This is not like a typical spinning class. It is slower paced, and trained professionals are on hand watching every move.

“We’ll have trained nurses on staff, they will walk around and support the individuals on the bike and make sure they are working within their range,” said Vinson. “The goal is to have the individuals complete a continuous steady type movement with a slow progression of intensity.”

Pedaling on a bike can do more than just reduce the symptoms of the disease, it can also boost morale.

“It helps with mobility and aerobic capacity, so if they are going up and down the stairs, they don’t have to stop because they are winded,” said Tommy Smith, an exercise physiologist at Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA. “Pedaling a bike helps in all aspects of their life.”

Many people come to Myrtle Beach to retire, so Vinson understands the importance of bringing a program like this to the YMCA.

“We have a lot of retirees here, a lot of those retirees as they age start experiencing some of these chronic diseases,” said Vinson. “It’s something that is going to be so beneficial not only for the YMCA but for the population of Myrtle Beach knowing that the Y has programs like this.”

To take part in the Pedaling for Parkinson’s program, the patient must be between the ages of 30-75 years and diagnosed with Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.

The Pedaling for Parkinson’s program is free for the first eight weeks and then a membership at the YMCA is required.

For more information visit www.pedalingforparkinsons.com or http://www.coastalcarolinaymca.org/clairechapinepps.