By Mike Wadsworthmwadsworth@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A huge financial lift came to the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue program on Thursday at a time when the facility needs it most.
Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman law firm of Charleston surprised leaders of the sea turtle rescue program with a $10,000 check delivered underwater.
"We found out about 10 minutes ago. It was really exciting," said Rescue Manager, Kelly Thorvalson.
"I was under the impression that we were doing a radio interview, so a surprise to be brought in the great tank - to have the divers coming down with the underwater check was great," she said.
Divers swam to the tank wall with the check in hand to cap the RPWB '10 Months of Giving' that celebrates the law firm's 10th anniversary in Charleston.
Each month, the firm donated $5,000 to area non-profits. The group to receive the $10,000 donation was chosen by members of the community.
"We're excited to help - There's the environmental aspect and the educational aspect," said Jay Ward, Managing Attorney for RPWB. "We wanted to give back to the community that's contributed so much to our success over the last ten years."
The Sea Turtle Rescue takes in sick and injured sea turtles that are endangered or threatened. The rescue program depends on community support for nearly a third of their funding.
"We are just into November now and we have had the second largest 'stranding' season in the history of the sea turtle rescue program, having 124 sea turtles. So it's an expensive program, we're at the top end of the numbers we admit each year, and this type of support is vital," said Thorvalson.
One of the most spectacular turtles in the facility is a 50 pound loggerhead named Gumby that was rescued on Kiawah Island. The loggerhead is a threatened species, but high nesting numbers this year point to good things in South Carolina.
"They certainly haven't made a 'comeback,' but numbers look promising. It would take a lot more to officially consider it a 'comeback'," said Thorvalson.
Thursday's $10,000 donation will help the Sea Turtle Rescue program help those rising numbers.
Nearly 10,000 people have come to see the rescue facility. Thorvalson contributes that community relationship and popular, publicized beach releases as the main reasons members of the community chose the rescue to receive the $10,000 donation.
"It's a great way for people to see firsthand the impacts that humans have, the negative impacts humans have and how we are helping [sea turtles]," she said.
You can learn more about the rescue and check the health status of the turtles at the rescue by clicking HERE.