Tyler McMahon, a second-grader at Providence Elementary, hasn't been able to attend much school this year because he's been sick. The 7-year-old, who was born two months premature, has a weak immune system and easily catches colds from other people that make him very ill.
"He has low T cells and he catches everything so we pulled him out of school to try to get him better," said his mother Sarah McMahon.
When Tyler was in the hospital for a week in September, friends of the family gave him money to get a toy so he searched the Internet for one of his favorite types of toys - the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. During his search, he found a link to a Web site where you can adopt a sea turtle so he decided to check it out.
After accessing the Web site, www.cccturtle.org, Tyler knew he wanted to spend his money to adopt a turtle through the Caribbean Conservation Corporation in Gainesville, Fla.
"I wanted to name one so I thought to myself, 'maybe I want the one with the satellite,'" he said.
The Caribbean Conservation Corporation has several named turtles with satellite tracking devices attached to the back of their shells. This allows them to use space age technology to learn more about their migratory behavior. By adopting a satellite-tagged turtle, you can track the turtle's movements through the Web site.
Tyler named the sea turtle he adopted "Maliszewski," which is Betty, Sue and Nick's last name. They are the friends in Delaware who gave him the money to buy a toy.
Tyler is able to track the location of Maliszewski on the Web site. His turtle weighs 350 pounds and is 3.5 feet long.
Tyler received a certificate with a picture of his sea turtle. He also got a conservation guide, decal, logo magnet and a one-year subscription to a newsletter.
He enjoys the sea turtle project so much that his mother said he came up with the idea to get more people to adopt them.
"He thought that if 10 people adopted them, that would be $250, which would help a lot of turtles," said Sarah.
So far, about six people have adopted a turtle. Tyler's 4-year-old sister Kaitlyn has adopted one that she named "Vinny Cherico" after her grandfather.
The McMahons also adopted a turtle as a surprise for Tyler's homebound instruction teacher Cathy Fichtner, who named him Charlie.
"I think that's an admirable project for a seven-year-old who has had so many health problems," said Fichtner, who has been a substitute teacher in the Solanco School District for more than 20 years and once taught at Providence Elementary.
Fichtner, who has been collecting turtles for several years because of seeing them when her family vacations in the Outer Banks, said she has incorporated Tyler's love of turtles into his school work.
Tyler's mother said hopefully he'll be going back to school on March 27. He recently underwent outpatient surgery to open up his sinuses, which drained them.
"It always starts with his sinuses," she said. "We've been to different hospitals over the years and they have to test and re-test."
She said the first four years of his life, Tyler was in the hospital for a week at a time. Then when he turned 4, he didn't seem to get sick as much.
"You get frustrated because you're trying to find out what's wrong," she said. "Because he's sick all the time, he can't keep up with everybody."
Tyler said he thinks the Adopt-A-turtle project is important because they're indanger of becoming extinct.
"I think they're very interesting," he said matter-of-factly about why he likes sea turtles. "I think people should adopt them so it can help them live longer and to stop them from being extinct."
It costs $25 to adopt a turtle. For more information, visit www.cccturtle.org.