Bald Head Island Conservancy

The “Endless Summer” Claire Miley Memorial Intern Lounge

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By Allison and Rob Miley, Life Members

We began coming to Bald Head Island with our three-year-old daughter Claire in 2007, where she fell in love with the magic of the island — the beach and the ocean, golf cart rides through the woods, and the wonder of watching nesting and hatching sea turtles. The Conservancy quickly became another love, where she regularly attended touch-tank classes, education seminars and overnights with her friends. She was proud to know the names of the island alligators and which lagoons they lived in. She educated those around her about what she’d learned. In kindergarten Claire quickly became known as “the turtle girl” – introducing herself to her soon-to-be long-time best friend Nadia by saying “Hi, I’m Claire and I like turtles.” For years she planned a career in marine biology before leaning toward what came most naturally to her – using her old-soul wisdom to be a therapist and counselor to those around her. 

On July 21, 2019, on a beautiful sunny afternoon with her laughter in the air, our beloved 15-year-old Claire was hit from behind as a passenger on a jet ski in an accident on Lake Norman, N.C. We quickly designated memorial contributions to two of her passions – Bald Head Island, via the Conservancy, and rescue dogs. As highlighted in our 2019 article, more than $40,000 was donated to the Conservancy in a few months. The donations made in honor of Claire were among the largest “In Honor Of” donations the Conservancy has ever received. After a thoughtful presentation by the Conservancy of options for how to use the funds, we chose the most pressing need – reconstructing and designing the open-space entrance room to the intern dormitory. 

We are pleased to share meaningful details about the completion of the Claire Miley Endless Summer Intern Lounge, giving the interns a bright and meaningful space to work, gather and relax. 

  • A portion of the donations was used for renovations. These included rebuilding the windows and front wall of the room, updating HVAC, redoing flooring and painting, and creating a separate space for Sea Turtle Biologist Paul Hillbrand who has thoughtfully overseen more than 37 turtle nests in Claire’s honor. 
  • Brett Christmas, owner of Budget Blinds of Wilmington and a close family friend, donated blinds for the room. 
  • Two highlights of the room were inspired by the family favorite The Endless Summer surfing documentary. We worked with Islander and artist Karen Mortimer to create an entrance sign depicting a version of the movie logo with an image of Claire and two dear friends, Cam and Tate, with whom she spent many summers on the island and at the Conservancy. And above the TV hangs an original Robert August surfboard, a star surfer from the movie and surfboard designer. 
  • Scenic photos of the marsh, Old Baldy and the marina taken by a young photographer Claire line the back wall, as well as a photo of her holding an East Beach seashell. 
  • Claire followed surfer and award-winning wave photographer Clark Little on Instagram (@clarklittle). A wave photo he posted on the day she passed hangs in the center of the room from the Clark Little Gallery in Hawaii. 
  • Completing the room is a photo of a hatchling from Legacy Turtle “Claire” who made tracks in the shape of a heart in the sand before heading to the ocean, along with a line from a poem written in Claire’s honor by Conservancy Board Member, Trish Healy. Claire was a frequent visitor of her favorite neighbors, Trish and John. 

We are forever grateful that the Conservancy nurtured in Claire a deep love and respect for nature, and inspired her to be a champion for the conservation and preservation of our island and the world beyond the ferry. She was quick to point out to her friends that we are all merely visiting guests of the ocean and forests, and the habitat is primarily the animals’ domain, not ours. She was passionate about how we could all live in harmony together. We designated funds for her memorial, donated key pieces to the intern lounge and became Lifetime Members of the Conservancy with a desire to instill Claire’s love, respect and protection of animals and nature in generations to come in her honor. 

We are greatly blessed to have so many amazing memories with Claire growing up on the island. In the unique island fashion, the community has lovingly held us close during our darkest hours. We are deeply thankful to Melanie Robbins for her volunteer design work for the room, the Conservancy staff for their care and support during this process, and the many donors who contributed to Claire’s lasting legacy on her magical Bald Head Island.

Conservancy interns working together in the “Endless Summer” lounge


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