Volunteering for Animal Balance comes with many perks. We’re doing great things for animals, making the world a better place, making new friends everywhere we go…the list goes on and on. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the perk of working primarily on islands, which means spending lots of time in close proximity to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

There is no shortage of information out there on the health benefits of being at the beach (just be sure to wear your sunscreen!) and breathing in the salt air or taking a quick dip in the ocean waves. Salt water regenerates your skin, helps with muscle pain, strengthens your immune system, boosts your mood and reduces stress and anxiety. Breathing in salt air is great for your lungs and improves your ability to absorb oxygen. Just listening to the sound of the waves will calm your mind and help ground you when the day to day stuff gets to be a little too much.

During each campaign I try to carve out a little bit of time to find a beach to appreciate, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Just as beaches can play a part in keeping us healthy, we need to play a part in keeping the beaches healthy. Through a partnership with two great non-profits, The Surfrider Foundation and Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Animal Balance team was invited to participate in a beach cleanup on our last day in Hilo. It was a great way to give back to the islands in a we haven’t before, and to gain an even greater appreciation for the beaches we are lucky enough to visit.

So, on Sunday morning, armed with gloves and trash bags, our amazingly hard-working volunteers were among a large group that showed up at Kings Landing Beach in Hilo, ready to attack the trash. The brushy areas surrounding the lava-rock shoreline have become dumping areas for some folks, and a short walk around revealed trash of all kinds. Over the course of about two hours the group of volunteers filled up a giant construction dumpster with all sorts of debris. They found tires, engine parts, discarded clothing, plastics, bottles, you name it. The group also worked to paint over graffiti and clean up the skate park area adjacent to the beach. Even after working five long days spaying and neutering cats, the AB team was energetic and approached the work happily…maybe it was the mood boosting effect of the ocean air!

It was a great event, and one that we were proud to be a part of. Taking care of the environment is a crucial part of maintaining the balance that we are seeking for all beings. It didn’t take a lot of time to make a small difference that day. As the motto for the event said so eloquently “Many hands make light work.” We were fortunate to be some of those “many hands” and it was our pleasure to work alongside members of the community to help take care of the beaches.

At the end of the cleanup, several members of our team hiked out onto the lava rocks to take in the view. There they saw two sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach, as if waiting to remind us all why we were there in the first place.

Mahalo Hawaii! Your beaches not only bring us health and happiness, but are a great lesson to us on the true nature of our mission to find balance.

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