Behind The Scenes

Helping a California beach ‘Heal’

Editor’s Note: Earth Day is Friday, April 22. This week, Front Row will highlight some of the ways ESPN and its employees are working to promote environmental awareness. ESPN.com copy desk editor Abbey Lostrom is one of the Los Angeles Production Center employees who helped the April 16 rehab of a local beach.

Saturday was perfect beach weather in Southern California. Sunshine. Only a few wispy clouds. About 80 degrees. It wasn’t hot enough to melt my flip-flops, but it was just hot enough that a dip in the crashing waves was a refreshing necessity.

Luckily, I had already been planning to spend that morning at the beach — albeit not lying on a towel, reading a good book. Through the Disney VoluntEARS program, I had signed myself and some friends up for a Heal the Bay beach cleanup at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades (probably better known as the home of the fictional Bayside Tigers in the old Saved By The Bell sitcom).

Heal the Bay focuses on improving the quality of the Santa Monica Bay, its beaches and the surrounding areas.

The non-profit environmental group is involved in many activities, including operating the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, various beach and river cleanups, and testing water to monitor pollution.

The group also has an educational purpose, providing speakers for schools and clubs. There’s lots of information on its website, and it publishes  the Beach Report Card, which assesses water quality based on bacterial analysis and provides important information for surfers and other beachgoers.

After inching through the typical L.A. traffic Saturday morning, we were issued garbage bags, plastic gloves and checklists to record our finds. We then walked the beach and back, picking up any garbage and recording it, before turning in the bags and the checklists.

This made a difference in two ways. First, it got the beach clean. Second, it provided information about types and sources of pollution, which should help keep the beach clean in the future.

Heal the Bay plays host to a beach cleanup the third Saturday of every month, rotating among L.A. County’s beaches. The organization isn’t part of Disney/ABC/ESPN, but Disney project leader Beth Ryan, an executive assistant in the international television department, said about 160 employees are involved in the ongoing initiative, participating in beach cleanups as fits their schedules.

She said about 10 to 20 people are able to participate in a given month, while on Saturday, I counted about 30 to 40 employees with their families and friends among the hundreds of participants.

Ryan has been volunteering with the organization for 12 years. When she joined Disney three years ago, she put the program on the Disney VoluntEARS calendar and has been recruiting within the company ever since.

“After sitting in a cubicle every day, I’m a warrior on the weekends,” she said.

For me, the beach cleanup was the perfect way to get involved during Earth Month.

I got to spend a beautiful Saturday morning at the beach with co-workers and friends. And I got to help improve one of my favorite things about L.A. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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