Mother Nature’s full fury was on display this summer as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused tremendous damage to the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida. Both areas have started the long road to recovery, thanks in part to assistance from groups like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army and generous donations from around the country.
The Emerald Coast wasn’t spared, either. Tropical Storm Cindy blew through right before this year’s tournament and despite limited damage, what was shaping up to be a record turnout was instead limited to three dozen boats when most of the fleet backed out. Still, it turned out to be a spirited competition with only a couple pounds separating the top teams.
Despite the financial loss incurred because of the reduced field, the host Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort honored its charity commitments. Three benefactors—The Billfish Foundation, Harvest House and the Sandestin Foundation for Kids—are receiving significant donations from the tournament.
“We are still donating $5,000 to The Billfish Foundation even though the tournament lost money because of the storm,” says ECBC Director Adam Alfonso. “This is something that’s very important to us.” That contribution will have a direct impact on the sport next season.
“The ECBC donation will allow us to strengthen and expand our tagging efforts specifically in the Gulf of Mexico,” explains Peter Chaibongsai, TBF’s director of conservation programs. “We plan to split the focus between satellite and our traditional dart tags, plus recognize those boats who tag the most blue marlin with our regional awards.” The Billfish Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to research, conservation and advocacy on behalf of billfish stocks around the globe.
Game fish weighed during the ECBC went to a good cause as well. Captured tuna, wahoo and dolphin were sold and the nearly $10,000 in proceeds were donated to Harvest House, a local food bank, to provide meals for the area’s less-fortunate.
The participants, their families and the throngs of spectators watching the weigh-ins did their part too. The proceeds from T-shirts, hats and other tournament gear sold during the week was donated to the Sandestin Foundation for Kids, a non-profit established by the owners of the resort to provide funds and assistance for needy children and their families during tragedies. More than $12,000 was raised and donated, despite the smaller tournament fleet.
“We always hope for clear skies and calm seas for the tournament,” Alfonso says. “But even a tropical storm couldn’t dampen the generous spirit of our teams. I’m proud of our charitable commitments and look forward to giving away more money next year to help fund the efforts of these special organizations.”