HOLMES BEACH – A Paradise Realty and Vacation Rentals and Hurricane Hank’s teamed up for the inaugural Turtle Watch Wednesday fundraiser that raised more than $2,300 for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.
Doubling as a red tide recovery promotion for the Island and its businesses, Turtle Watch Wednesday took place at Hurricane Hank’s in Holmes Beach on Wednesday, Sept 5.
Attendees who signed in received a free drink ticket from A Paradise Realty.
Hurricane Hank’s offered half-priced appetizers, and for every drink and food item purchased, Hurricane Hank’s owner Brian Mathae donated $1 to AMI Turtle Watch.
There was a 50/50 raffle, and there was a silent auction on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant. The silent auction featured items donated by Island Coffee Haus, the Swordfish Grill, Hurricane Hanks, Hurricane Liquors, Fratello’s, the Seafood Shack and others. AMI Rum donated a bottle of rum to the silent auction and also provided free samples.
At one point, Mathae stood behind the bar and addressed the crowd inside.
“A big round of applause to A Paradise for buying the first round of drinks,” he said, pointing toward A Paradise Realty owner and president Bill Alexander.
“We appreciate the turn out, we appreciate everybody coming tonight and the Island’s back as we know it. We just wanted to give a little something to show our appreciation,” Alexander said.
Mathae then turned things over to AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox.
“I surveyed the nesting beaches this morning by ATV. There wasn’t a dead fish and anchovies were populating the water. We need to share that on social media. Take a picture and say, ‘Come to the Island’,” Fox said.
“I am so overjoyed and overpowered by this, you just can’t imagine,” she also said.
While standing outside, Mathae elaborated on the fundraiser and how he and his employees are coping with the red tide.
“The entire Island’s been suffering and with our staff we’ve had to cut back on some hours. Our sales have greatly impacted their gratuity and this was a great way to bring some people back out to the Island. We’re not near the beach, so we haven’t noticed any effects in the air or anything like that. We’re serving our same great food with our same great service, and it would be great if people would still support the Island,” he said.
“Turtle Watch is an important and viable charity on the Island. There’s no doubt there’s been an impact on marine life from the red tide and organizations like this, with these super volunteers, are doing everything they can to ensure the stocks of turtles are as high as they can be,” Mathae said.
While still seated inside, Alexander said, “Thanks to all these great people that support our community and that support Turtle Watch. I think we’ve made a statement tonight.”
When asked if the red tide impacted A Paradise’s rental reservations, Alexander said, “A lot of them have cancelled, but now the phones are starting to ring again.”
The following day Fox distributed an email that said the $2,300 raised would be used to repair the Turtle Watch ATV that was damaged while helping Manatee County conduct early morning nesting beach runs during the onset of the red tide. The ATV broke down from being overworked. Fox said the money would also help fund Turtle Watch’s public outreach and student programs.
Her email noted the 50/50 drawing raised $600 and winner Kathy Nunnally, from A Paradise, donated her winnings back to Turtle Watch.
“The warm passionate support at one point made me cry,” she wrote.
She thanked the Turtle Watch volunteers and the staffs at Hurricane Hank’s and A Paradise Realty and said Turtle Watch Wednesday would become an annual event on the first Wednesday after Labor Day.