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TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WWAY) — It was an exciting morning at Topsail Beach where hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to some of the area’s most cherished visitors.

Twenty-five healthy sea turtles from The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and Rehabilitation Center were returned back to the Atlantic Wednesday. After they were prepped at the center and ready to go, volunteers at the hospital said their last goodbyes to their favorite patients.

“You become attached to them, but during the course of months or years that they are here you know that your purpose is to get these turtles back home,” Karen Sota of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital said. “That’s where they belong, that’s where they want to be. And that’s what you are focusing on no matter how attached you may get to a particular turtle.”

11-year-old Hayley Childress says she loves sea turtles and was honored to be apart of the release.

“It just makes me feel good just to know that I’m apart of helping them,” Childress said. “Helping wildlife be better and just go back to what they are good at.”

Dedicated volunteers and interns at the hospital nursed the turtles back to health. They say all the hard work is worth it when they are able to return the turtles to the sea.

“When you’re working in the hospital, and it’s wet, muggy. You’re getting covered in turtle poop all the time,” 2010 sea turtle hospital intern Amanda Andrews said. “It’s just a great experience when you can see these sick turtles get rehabilitated and get released.”

Andrews says she thinks we owe it to the turtles to do what we can to make sure they stay safe and healthy. She says it is as simple as throwing away your trash and making sure it does not make it’s way to the beach.

“They’re apart of the ecosystem,” Andrews said. “They’re here for a reason and they date back to the dinosaur ages. They’re one of the oldest living reptiles we have. I think it’s a shame if they don’t get to stay with us.”

Before, these turtles were a shell of their former selves. Now, they’re one their way to freedom.

The hospital says these turtles face the same dangers they previously overcame now that they have been released back into the wild. They say you can help keep them safe by educating yourself and visiting their facility.

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