Come one, come all, to the jellyfish ball. Okay, it’s not really a jellyfish ball, but it is time to break out your shark costume or pull together a DIY octopus get-up. I.CARE, Islamorada’s community-driven coral restoration organization, is hosting an epic Underwater Critter Halloween Party, and you’re invited. 

Taking place at Florida Keys Brewing Co. at Morada Way on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m., the event will be a fundraiser for I.CARE’s local coral restoration efforts.There is no entry fee. Dress up to enter the raffle or buy a ticket for a chance to win. Proceeds from sales go straight to helping plant corals.

So what can you win? Over $6,000 in prizes, including a Mares scuba regulator worth $650 for best costume. Other prizes include: a Garmin MK2S ($1,000 value); a Sea Kayak, paddle and life jacket from World Wide Sportsman ($800 value); a two-night stay at Islander Resort ($600 value); Dinner for two at Ziggie’s & Mad Dogs ($150 value); and more. 

“All prizes have been donated from the community, which is amazing,” said I.CARE co-founder Kylie Smith. “Mike (Goldberg, the other co-founder) and I are so grateful for the community support, and we are excited to put on our costumes and spread the message about what we are doing at I.CARE.”

From the beginning, I.CARE has been a community affair. Goldberg and Smith’s selling point is that the local reef in Islamorada benefits everyone, from restaurants and hotels that cater to tourists coming to fish and dive to locals who just love our waters. As such, I.CARE has been funded in large part by donations from local residents and businesses who give a portion of each sale to I.CARE. The newest community partners include Islamorada Coffee Roasters, Keys Deep Apparel and Islander Girl Snorkel Trips.

The organization also functions as a partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key, which provides all of I.CARE’s corals used in restoration and supervises all work on the reef. They also run the only land-based coral nursery in Islamorada, located in Bud & Mary’s Marina. 

Mote endeavors to use science-based restoration techniques and corals to give them the best chance of survival. They consciously interface with threats like climate change, overfishing, etc. to assess how they affect coral survivorship and to try to account for future conditions.

“I.CARE is doing great,” Smith told the Keys Weekly “We have transplanted 2,130 corals since January 2021 from three different species. We just finished outplanting 200 fragments of massive starlet coral, a species that Mote has never fragmented and outplanted and we are thrilled to be a part of this project.”

As of August, their survivorship (a critically important number in coral restoration science) for staghorn and elkhorn corals was a whopping 94%. This success has most recently attracted the attention of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, who recently came out to transplant corals with I.CARE and to foster future collaborations. 

So far, 435 divers have joined I.CARE on outplanting trips, and they’ve even added a season of sponge restoration (350 sponges to Alligator Reef) to bolster the recovery of the entire ecosystem. 

As for the party, in addition to costumes and prizes, you can expect great music by Micah and local craft beers from Florida Keys Brewing Co. The event will be the first community event solely dedicated to I.CARE. 

I.CARE’s story actually began at the brewery, with Smith and Goldberg first coming up with the idea “over a beer at a picnic table,” Smith said. “FKBC has been a part of the I.CARE story from the beginning … so it is only appropriate that we have our first community event there.”

When asked what costumes she’d like to see, Smith said, “There are so many beautiful creatures in our ocean for people to dress up as, but not too many that you can buy. So I am excited to see how creative people get with making their costumes. I would love to see some parrotfish.”

She concluded, “This is a great way for people to come out, have some fun, win prizes and learn about what I.CARE is all about. This event is about spreading awareness in the community about how people can get involved restoring our reefs.”For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/4427254850701000?ref=newsfeed.

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Tiff Duong is a self-made mermaid who loves all things cheesy (romantic and dairy) and thrives in the 3 am hour. She believes in leaving it all on the field and has never met a (mis)adventure she didn't love.