Sunny makes a splash for sea lions

The Fairmont Newport Beach hotel added a new member to its hospitality family last week: Sunny the Sea Lion.

Sunny, a smiley marine mammal with a penchant for sunglasses and surfer shirts, is the new face of the hotel's children's program. He's also the catalyst for the hotel's new support of local sea lion rescue efforts.

"We wanted to paint the picture to our guests that we are authentically connected to the beach," said Rei Strand, the hotel's public relations and marketing coordinator.

The hotel on MacArthur Boulevard pledged to donate $1 to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center for every colored page turned into the front desk from a Sunny the Sea Lion coloring book, which is given to children at check-in.

All the proceeds from sea lion's plush toys — which are hot gift shop commodities — will be donated to the center, Strand said.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a Laguna Beach-based nonprofit, rescues, rehabilitates and then releases marine mammals like sea lions that are found sick, injured or stranded on Orange County's coast.

Sunny was created by Quin, the 6-year-old son of Executive Chef Chad Blunston, in a hotelwide search for a mascot that represents the Fairmont. The hotel was looking to become more family-friendly and convey its connection to the beach.

Employees got into the challenge and turned in paintings, drawings and sketches of everything imaginable — from fishes and frogs to an Orange County superhero — but Quin's crayon drawing of a sea lion won, Strand said.

After doing research on the animal and touring the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the hotel staff realized the mammals don't have it easy, she said.

"Through the research that we did," Strand said, "I think we learned a lot about how we can help them."

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