By MADDY VITALE
Sue and Michael McElwee moved to Ocean City full time over the summer with their four children, ages four to 13.
Sue, a stay-at-home mom, has brought a bit of her creative side to the North Street beach over the last couple of years.
What started out as a photo op for the McElwees and their children, Harlow, 4, Mason, 8, Maddox, 10, and Michael, 13, in 2019, complete with a decorated Christmas tree on the beach with shells, grew into an attraction for locals the following year.
This year, Sue McElwee decided to do something with the leftover shells.
She and her family began creating sand art. And the community joined in.
“Everybody loves it. People enjoy it,” she said in an interview Friday. “I don’t know everyone who helps, but the art grows and grows.”
But this week, McElwee was alarmed to find out some upsetting news.
She posted photos on social media of what was left of a rainbow in the sand complete with a heart in the middle of it.
“Someone took a picture and sent it to me. I didn’t want to go down to see it,” McElwee said of learning that it was destroyed. “I hoped the waves washed it away, but it looked like someone stomped on it.”
Some people who appreciate the special artwork carved into the sand by the McElwees and others commented on social media:
Linda Lowes said: “Bring it to life again, we all loved it and wait for it to be bigger and better. Again, thank you for your vision.”
Diane Reid Hinman simply said, “So sad 🙁 why???”
And Cheryl Hyson commented, “Breaks my heart! So sad!”
McElwee said after reading the posts, “It is so nice to hear that something so simple, means so much, to so many people. That is what I want to teach my kids.”
The first piece of sand art done by her family this year was a peace sign created out of seashells. She said it was the perfect sign — a touch of calm — during a turbulent time in history with the pandemic and divisive politics.
“The peace sign just grew. It was so cool. It was just the right time to create it,” she said. “When we were checking the waves we saw that it washed away. I told the kids to grab whatever shells they could.”
So close to Valentine’s Day, the kids asked their mom if they could create a huge heart.
And others helped, too.
People in the community, although McElwee isn’t certain who, helped the heart to grow.
When the heart disappeared with the recent storms, the rainbow came next.
And although it was likely destroyed by one person or a few, it will not deter the McElwees or the community from continuing the creative tradition at the North Street beach.
In the case of the rainbow, the McElwees created it, but someone else added the heart.
“I have no idea who did it,” McElwee said. “There are a lot of teenagers who come down to surf. It was really sweet.”
What is to come promises to be as special as the last, and the one before that, McElwee said. Because, as McElwee explained, it is about the kindness of others and being able to bring people together in a time that has been difficult for so many.
They might rebuild the rainbow, possibly over the weekend, or create something else just as significant in its place – maybe a four-leaf clover in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
It seems that what they create isn’t as important to them as how they come together to make something that the whole community can treasure, McElwee said.
“We will do it as long as we can. I guess until summer time,” she noted. “It really makes our beach special.”