Christmas came early this year with a visit by Santa Claus to Sea Turtle, Inc.’s Education Center on Saturday. Dressed in his summer vacation uniform of a Hawaian shirt, red overalls, Santa hat and Santa-themed tennis shoes, he posed for pictures with visiting families and dutifully made a note of Christmas wishes.

The Christmas in July event was part of the organization’s ongoing effort to hold community events following the opening of their new education center in 2018.

“We wanted to engage the people to return back to Sea Turtle, Inc. and see the new things going on. So we started celebrating Hang Ten’s birthday, doing Christmas in July and Halloween events. That’s what, for the past few years, keeps people coming back, these special moments that they can capture vacationing on the island or on one day trips for residents,” Sanjuana Zavala, Director of Marketing and Development for Sea Turtle, Inc., said.

While people might already be familiar with their Christmas event in December, June and July see a spike in attendees so it seemed natural to have special one-day events to add to the attractions already available.

Santa Claus talks with Julie Henderson and her daughter Kalea after taking a photo together Saturday for the Christmas in July event at Sea Turtle, Inc. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Visiting from Houston, Miranda Crawley and her husband Jared and children Harper and Walker, found the event a nice surprise as they made their traditional family vacation to South Padre Island.

“We didn’t know Santa was here! So that was just an added bonus, the kids were super excited,” she said.

While the event adds a bit of fun for visitors, events like this serve an important role for the center at this time — donations. A donation of $5 was requested for attendees interested in taking a family photo with Santa Claus to help with the organization’s current needs.

During Winter Storm Uri, the nonprofit helped to take care of more than 5,000 cold stunned sea turtles over the week until conditions were stable enough for them to be released back into the wild. From expanded operation costs to broken equipment, the financial needs of the nonprofit were stretched beyond their normal operations. Additionally the donations raised help pay for the staff, building upkeep and the day-to-day needs of the resident and rehabilitating sea turtles.

Santa Claus asks a visitor which sea turtle matches her height Saturday during a visit by the holiday icon for the Christmas in July event at Sea Turtle, Inc. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“The world is getting a little bit back to normal so we are doing the best that we can to bring back the events that we’ve had for the last 2-3 years. We hope that people are comfortable enough to come to the island and come to Sea Turtle, Inc. and spend a few hours to give them a good smile back on all their faces,” Zavala said.

For more information about Sea Turtle, Inc. visit