The room had been transformed into an undersea fantasy: halls lined in blue and green satin resembled seaweed and salt water while floating balloon fish and jellyfish lanterns bobbed at eye level. The Caribbean Calypso beat “Under the Sea” pulsed as guests entered the space, welcomed by cascading bubbles and underwater video footage projected in grand scale on the walls. Belgian scuba instructor and ocean advocate, Tori Daenen, was celebrating her 40th birthday in style with 60 of her closest friends and family at her side.
Tori had been infatuated with the underwater world since childhood, growing up watching naturalist television programs on marine life. She knew she wanted to experience this world for herself, so at age seventeen with her first Saturday job pay check in hand, she cashed in and enrolled in a scuba diving course. With her first breath underwater, she was captivated. Diving gave Tori a greater appreciation of nature and a deeper connection to the ocean. She knew that she wanted to pursue scuba diving and eventually become an instructor in order to share her experience with others, so she kept training and diving at every chance that presented itself.
Shortly after graduating university, an exciting opportunity arose to spend six weeks surveying coral reefs with the marine conservation organization, Coral Cay Conservation. Without hesitation, Tori hopped on a plane headed to the Philippines. It was during this time that she fully realized the importance of preserving our underwater ecosystems, and she’s been advocating for their protection ever since.
As an independent PADI instructor, Tori teaches her students about conserving marine life and the power of individual actions to influence large-scale impact. She focuses on educating her clients on the many challenges the ocean faces, like overfishing and marine debris, and emphasizes the unique ability of the scuba diving community to make a positive difference for the planet.
“As divers, we so enjoy the beauty of the ocean and we want to preserve the natural phenomenon. I think educating people will make a difference,” says Tori.
Tori consistently incorporates ocean conservation principles in her daily experience, so naturally, her 40th birthday celebration was no different. With a happy and abundant life already, Tori felt that she didn’t need any more “things.” In lieu of presents, Tori asked her guests to make a donation to Project AWARE’s Finathon fundraiser program, and she raised over 800 Euros! Her party offered both a chance to celebrate the marine world that she so loves, and an opportunity to give back to conservation.
Interested in hosting your own fundraiser to support ocean protection? Start your own Finathon today.