For the second year in a row, a local teen raised funds for REEF Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) over the holiday season by wrapping gifts in front of the Divers Direct in Key Largo. 

“I got the idea after doing similar three years ago for my band class,” said Oceana Gross, organizer of the fundraiser. “It felt like such a great way to raise money while also making people get in the holiday spirit and not have to worry about their wrapping. I adapted it and organized my own.” 

While she executed the fundraiser by herself during the 2019 holiday season, Gross was relieved and grateful to enlist the help of over 10 fellow National Honor Society (NHS) members for this most recent effort. The stellar student was accepted into NHS this past school year, and when the group was brainstorming fundraiser opportunities, she “jumped” at the chance to get help and grow her fundraiser, she told the Keys Weekly.

Gross settled on REEF to be the recipient of donations because the nonprofit organization is “such a large part of our community” and because the work that it does is “integral” to the health of the local environment.

Local families brought gifts for wrapping to Divers Direct in exchange for donations for local nonprofit REEF. RANDY KLEIN GROSS/Contributed

REEF aims to conserve the world’s oceans through citizen science, education and research. Locally, their mission includes their well-known fish count surveys, lionfish derbies to combat the invasive species on the reefs and REEFfest, an annual celebration of marine conservation.

Randy, Gross’ mom, said, “As a parent, SCUBA instructor and lionfish jewelry maker, I was very proud that Oceana, my daughter, picked REEF as the focus of her fundraiser. She has always been an artistic perfectionist, so wrapping presents is a lot of fun for her.”

Randy credited Oceana’s learning to dive at an early age and her daughter’s travels with instilling in her a love of the oceans and a desire to protect them.

In the end, the teens raised $430 for REEF.

Gross concluded, “Despite current health and safety restrictions, we were able to have an incredibly successful fundraiser and I’m grateful to everyone who brought their presents to be wrapped and to my fellow volunteers for lending their time.”

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