CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Aquarium has launched a fundraising campaign to help them offset losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and protect critical aquarium programs.

A 68-day closure and subsequent limited reopening due to COVID-19 put the aquarium at a severe disadvantage, as “general admission sales and membership make up approximately 80%” of its yearly revenue.

To save what the aquarium considers “the heart and soul” of their mission — education programs and the Sea Turtle Care Center — they have launched Our World Without, a fundraising campaign with a goal of generating $1.6 million by March 31, 2021.

“The South Carolina Aquarium has been around since 2000; we’re celebrating our 20th year,” said the Aquarium’s director of education, Brian Thill.

Things were looking great for their 20th birthday – then the pandemic hit the Lowcountry.

“The aquarium has seen great growth over the years. We had a new strategic plan that we were chomping at the bit,” said Thill. “It greatly impacted our programming our business. A number of months, we were closed for a number of months.”

The South Carolina Aquarium has since reopened, but the financial impact is wide.

“We officially launched a campaign; ‘Our World Without,’ to raise $1.6 million to help us to stay in programming through 2021,” said Thill.

They have already had to make tough decisions. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen about 25% of our staff furloughed or laid off during these tough times.”

Also, the turtle hospital, which helps many injured turtles get back to the ocean, could be impacted.

“We have to ask ourselves; you know, will we be able to take an injured or sick turtle from outside of Charleston area which we normally see during the fall season? With cold times and things of that nature.

They have numerous ways you can help.

“You can become a member, you can buy an admission ticket, we are doing virtual programs, you can purchase a virtual program or school program to help our cause.”

Thill went on to say, “We love our community. We have always been a part of our community and we hope to continue that in the future.”

Another way you can help is by running in the Turtle Trek 5K. That will be a virtual race this year.

You can run a 5K between October 3rd and October 10th. It costs just $35 to run, and that will help the sea turtle hospital.  To learn more about the fundraiser or how you can help the aquarium, click here.