Global Youth Day at Lovers Key a Big Success


Last Saturday local teens took to Lovers Key State Park on a youth-led initiative designed to better their (and our) community. They joined millions of other youth around the globe celebrating Global Youth Service Day last weekend.

It was a great turn out at Lovers Key for the project held by Keep Lee County Beautiful on Saturday. Over 80 students participated in the event, including the six youth leaders: Sarah Fancher, Brian Fancher, Alex Henson, Allie Bowers, Jonathan Lopez and Emily Van Dyke. Each leader was in charge of a different project, which included bench building, litter and debris removal, trimming and clearing trails for the upcoming Turtle Trot (May 14) and the removal of invasive plant life from the area.

Youth Day, Lover's Key
Emily Van Dyke and her crew remove invasive Shrimp Plants.

Brian Fancher’s squad had the task of building new benches to replace the old ones along the trails of the park. Lowe’s Store #2221 donated enough supplies for six benches and the Mariner High School Hispanic Honor Society was able to complete three in the time they had on Saturday.

The Riverdale IB Program was also hard at work all day at Lovers Key. Led by Allie Bowers, the crew was able to remove an amazing 450 pounds of litter and debris from the mangrove areas of the park.

With this year’s Turtle Trot coming up, the trails need to be ready for the hundreds who will run or walk in the big event. That’s where Volunteers Sarah Fancher of North Ft. Myers and Vice President of the MHS’s Key Club, Jonathan Lopez came in. They were in charge of the trail-trimming project to ensure a clear path for the trot.

GLobal Youth Day, Lover's Key
The trail cleaning crew takes a break. Pictured are Front: Jenna Zaleski and Nikki Shuman from Riverdale HS; Rear: Alec Casseo (Riverdale), Emily Mayo (Three Oaks Middle School); Skye Coffey (Riverdale), Santi Rodriguez (Riverdale) and Jonathan Lopez (Mariner). Photo by Mike Yost

Not all the plants needed trimming, some of the invasive ones needed to be removed. Plants such as the Shrimp Plant and Madagascar Periwinkle are harmful to the surrounding plants and can take over. Leader Emily Van Dyke was in charge of her group’s efforts to remove the Shrimp Plants from the area, while Alex Henson led his group in the removal of the invasive Madagascar Periwinkle.

In the afternoon, a well-deserved lunch was provided for the groups for their awesome efforts. Ranger Rick was encouraged by the turnout and the enthusiasm of the young people who volunteered for the event. Rick said that the kids are “using up a Saturday” to make Lovers Key a better place to visit and explore. In this writer’s opinion, they didn’t look like they felt they were wasting a Saturday.

Although there were some adults volunteering, this event was headed and executed by the young people. It was their day. Global Youth Service Day recognizes the positive impact that young people have on their communities 365 days a year. GYSD is celebrated in more than 135 countries with youth-led service projects and community events. Steven A. Culbertson, the president of YSA (Youth Service America) and leader of GYSD said, “We know that young people are uniquely suited to help solve problems, if given the opportunity.” Young people aren’t just concerned with the future, they are focusing on today’s issues as well. Culbertson went on to say, “Today’s social and environmental problems are immense; we need youth in Lee County to be leaders and problem solvers today, not just the leaders of a distant tomorrow.”

The combination of Keep Lee County Beautiful and the enthusiastic work of our local youth made the global event a success at Lovers Key. Keep Lee County Beautiful offers solutions that create clean, beautiful public places, reduce waste and increase recycling, generate positive impact on local economies and inspire generations of environmental stewards. Through this program, it was KLCB’s goal to engage our youth to take a greater responsibility to improve their community’s environment. Mission accomplished!

For more information about Keep Lee County Beautiful, visit


Mike Yost

Photos by Mike Yost