Family Volunteers Together for Marine and Ocean Conservation

Daily Point of Light # 6436 Jan 18, 2019

Volunteering for a clean up day at River Park North, Greenville, NC. Ralph Hulslander (Dawn’s father), Marilyn Hulslander (Dawn’s mother), Matt Higgins, Katelyn Higgins, Chloe Higgins, Cole Higgins, and Dawn Higgins./Courtesy Dawn Higgins

One Winterville, North Carolina family’s service started with their daughter, now a freshman at NC State, who is passionate about environmental science. As Dawn Higgins explains, the rest of the family’s service followed their daughter’s quite naturally, as each recognized their ability to make an impact on their greater world.

Volunteering in total thousands of hours over the last several years with Love A Sea Turtle (LAST), the Higgins family says what they do for LAST and other community-centered service is inspired by their responsibility to do good in the community. Increasing awareness by engaging students in leadership development and environmental stewardship, encouraging year-round service projects and conservation activities, and providing nature-based programs for underserved youth are some of the ways in which LAST creates positive change in communities.

From bake sales to river clean-ups and more, Dawn, Matt and their children Katelyn, Cole and Chloe Higgins are making a positive impact in their surrounding community and helping to improve the condition of our environment, and are today’s Daily Point of Light award honorees. Points of Light spoke to the Higgins family to learn more about their work with LAST.

What’s inspired you as a family to volunteer?

Dawn: It’s given us an investment not only in a specific organization but it’s an investment in our community. I feel volunteering gives you a deeper meaning and a purpose because you learn about things going on in your community while simultaneously helping, because you’re seeing the issue first-hand .

LAST is benefitting underserved youths in a unique way. Explain.

Cole: In 7th grade, I started volunteering as a junior counselor with the Love A Sea Turtle Upstream Downstream Camp. The summer program is a free camp for underserved children in our area. I was the second to youngest person working at the camp, and I was able to connect with the program participants in nature. We’d bike, kayak, fish together. Some of the kids – older and younger – had never ridden a bike before, so we taught them how. Some of the kids knew how to ride, but due to financial concerns, don’t own a bike. It makes me feel amazing helping these kids because I know I’m making their lives happier, and opening their worlds up to new things.

Katelyn Higgins assisting local middle school students learning about water science at River Park North in Greenville, North Carolina./Courtesy Dawn Higgins

Your volunteerism has prompted personal change. Tell me about that.

Dawn: I did a river clean-up with Love A Sea Turtle, and until you actually go out there and see it for yourself, you don’t realize how great the problem of pollution and trash in the rivers is. I saw plastic bags hanging from tree limbs, the trees almost like they were decorated with bags. That experience in turn spurred me to use as fewer plastic shopping bags, and use my recyclable bags instead.

Cole, you mentioned you’ve opened up a new world to some of these kids. But have they changed your perspective on the world?

Cole: Yes. I don’t feel like a snotty or spoiled kid. I’m humbled by volunteering because I’ve witnessed some of the challenges these kids go through over the last few years, and understand where they’re coming from.

Share some environmental projects you’ve worked on.

Dawn: My parents have even come to volunteer with us, it’s a family business. We’ve repurposed tennis ball cans into recycling collection cans. We’ve participated in “Paint the drain” which is all about storm water awareness. Stow it-Don’t Throw It is a youth-driven marine debris and ocean conservation project where volunteers distribute and assemble fishing line recycling bins so that boaters can properly dispose of monofilament fishing line.

How has your family grown through service?

Katelyn: Knowing that my family has come together to work for LAST means the world to me. Having a family who supported me when I first started volunteering at the age of 10 was great, but then they became involved and now my brother, Cole, is a leader for Love A Sea Turtle and I couldn’t be more proud. I have watched my family grow together through our work with Love A Sea Turtle and have seen my brother mature in his leadership role. I hope that my family continues our volunteer work and that my 10 year old sister, Chloe, follows my brother and I in becoming a leader for LAST. My family has always supported each other and by doing it through service I believe that we have become stronger together.

Share one impactful project with me that you’ve volunteered at.

Dawn: At this year’s Holidays of Hope event, Love A Sea Turtle collected and donated over 1,200 canned food items along with 25 bicycles to the First Born Community Center. Being able to reach out and provide the kids in my community with a better Christmas is truly good for the soul.

What’s one thing you want readers to take away from your service?
Matt: The biggest message is that we’re more than just one person. Everything that LAST does, they do together. That’s been a similar theme with how our family has volunteered. Service is predicated on the idea that the more people involved in one simple project, the greater impact you can make.

What future events do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

LAST youth volunteers are traveling to Florida to engage in leadership and team building activities. For information about future events and how you can help, please visit the website:

Do you want to make a difference in your community like the Higgins Family? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.

Post written by Marlena Militana.

Brenda Solis