An accident took much from Lilly Barnett. But her determination, and the support of family and friends, have given this young girl hope.

By Jessica Gordon  |  Photograph by Carolyn Watson
From the May 2015 issue

Kid-LillyBarnett Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #96Once you hear Lilly Barnett’s story, chances are you will never forget it. It has elements of both fairy tales and nightmares, and at its core, it’s a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit and the power of love.

A tragic accident that claimed one life and altered countless others is neither the beginning nor end of Lilly’s story. But it does divide her life — and the lives of her mom Kelly, dad Bryan and younger sister Summer — into two very different chapters: before July 26, 2011, and after. 

It was a warm Tuesday night when Bryan Barnett kissed then 9-year-old Lilly goodbye as she headed out for dinner with her grandmother. “I told her I loved her and watched her be-bop out of here,” he recalls. “Four hours later, I was in a helicopter.”

The helicopter was carrying Lilly to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children’s Hospital (often referred to as A.I.) in Wilmington. She was unresponsive and clinging to life after a motorcycle traveling more than 120 mph slammed into the side of Lilly’s grandmother’s Lexus sedan as she crossed Route 1 near Milford. The motorcyclist died at the scene. Lilly’s grandmother suffered minor injuries, but the young girl in the back seat on the passenger side took almost the entire force of the collision. She suffered extensive injuries, from broken ribs and collapsed lungs to a bruised liver.

Four groups work to protect the coastal sussex environment

By Lynn R. Parks  |  Photograph by Kevin Fleming
From the April 2015 issue

Eco-SuzanneThurman Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #96Caring for the environment is a tough job. Suzanne Thurman, who helps to rescue stranded sea mammals and sea turtles through the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, which she founded, and who promotes action to keep oceans healthy, says that her work can be overwhelming.

“This work is very important to me, but I just have to take things one day at a time,” she says.

John Doerfler agrees. The vice chairman for the Delaware chapter of Surfrider, which advocates for clean oceans and beaches, says, “It’s easy for people to get discouraged, and to feel that we are being taken hostage by bad decisions.”

And yet, the work continues. Environmentalists compile data and write reports. They send letters, call legislators and speak out at public meetings.

Says Thurman: “If we don’t at least try to make a difference, things will never change.”

What follows are profiles of four groups fighting for the health of the environment in coastal Sussex County. As might be expected, all of them are centered on water: on the ocean, on the creatures in the ocean and on the county’s three inland bays. And despite the hurdles they face, all of their leaders are looking forward to better days ahead.

Richard Clifton’s exquisite waterfowl paintings have earned him high honors

By Gwen Guerke  |  Photograph by Scott Nathan
From the April 2015 issue

RichardClifton Our Content - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #96Richard Clifton is living his dream.

It’s easy to see why. He resides on an isolated piece of farmland adjacent to the sublimely beautiful Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. And he long ago developed into an accomplished waterfowl artist, earning not just a living but widespread acclaim.

In fact, Clifton is the 2015 Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Artist of the Year, the pinnacle of achievement in his chosen field.

But he’s not basking in his success, because this former farmer has a higher goal each time he creates an acrylic-on-canvas image: “I want people to get lost in it. I want it to draw you in.” Though his works are realistic and highly detailed, Clifton also tries “to create a sense of mystery. I don’t want to spell everything out for the viewers.”