Wandering the main floor of the Miami Beach Convention Center at this year’s International Boat Show, you couldn’t miss the boat with the pink mermaid. Pursuit Boats proudly debuted its first pink boat to support breast cancer research. As I listened to Pursuit President Tom Slikkers talk about their ‘In Pursuit of the Cure’ campaign, I quickly realized that this was not your typical fundraiser. This unique, target-specific grassroots campaign was a way for one Florida resident and cancer survivor to give back to the doctor who helped her through her journey towards a cure.
Each year there are nearly a quarter of a million new cases of breast cancer among women. Three years ago, Sandy Garcia, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, became one of those statistics. Her options lead her to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. After surgery, her doctors recommended that she use Dr. Ben Ho Park as her oncologist. That recommendation not only changed the course of her treatment but also gave her a new mission in life.
After talking to Dr. Park myself, I can understand why Sandy has become so passionate about his research. Next generation technology will allow his team to measure microscopic amounts of cancer by using blood samples. If successful, not only could cancer cells be detected earlier, but it would also allow doctors and patients to make informed decisions about treatment options post-surgery.
Sandy discovered that researchers usually have to seek their own funding, at least at the start of a new project. Dr. Park spends 80% of his research time just applying for grants, giving him little time in the actual lab. But there is change on the horizon, according to Dr. Park.
“This will make grassroots efforts and partnerships the new paradigm to get new research off the ground,” he stressed.
Doctors are eligible for Federal funding once the research reaches a certain level. But it still needs an impetus to get there, to create some momentum. Inspired by Dr. Park’s plight, Sandy enlisted the help of two trusted friends – Shelyn Lee and Angela Mozer – and together they began their own grassroots effort in Florida.
A recent transplant from South Carolina, Shelyn immediately recognized that much of Florida’s lifestyle was centered in the marine industry. In 2010, the total expenditures for new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories in Florida alone totaled more than $1.1 billion dollars. To put that in perspective, that is 20% of the total budget President Obama gave the National Cancer Institute in 2012. She thought that a boat would be the ideal canvas to wrap with a design using the ‘pink’ theme so well associated with breast cancer awareness. Quick research by the women involved showed that this concept had not been done in the industry so they immediately set out to find a partner.
Shelyn contacted John Nigro at Show Management, a promoter of four boat shows in Florida, who provided her a list of vendors for the Miami International Boat Show this past February. After e-mailing every company on that list, the first to reply back was David Glenn with Pursuit Boats, located in Ft. Pierce. Pursuit loved the idea and wanted to make it happen for the Miami show, then just two months away. The team worked quickly, getting Melbourne artist Terri Gust to create the design, then worked with Sign Zoo out of Glendale, AZ, who graciously donated the pink wrap (a $3,500 value). With just a day left before the show, a representative from Sign Zoo flew to Florida to apply the wrap to the Pursuit OS 315.
The pink mermaid took center stage at Pursuit’s press conference. After Tom Slikkers told the gathered crowd of their financial donation to the research foundation for every boat sold during the show, Dr. Park had the opportunity to publicly thank Pursuit and looked forward to their continued partnership. The pink boat was so popular that it actually sold twice – the boat on display sold as-is, then another was ordered with the same pink mermaid wrap. Pursuit will continue their ‘In Pursuit of the Cure’ campaign throughout the remainder of the year.
“The partnership that Sandy’s organization formed with Pursuit is exactly the grassroots efforts needed to move research forward,” Dr. Park told me on hearing of the effort’s success.
While this first fundraising event only netted $3,500, far short of the $225,000 Dr. Park needs annually to continue his research, it generated a tremendous amount of buzz in the marine industry. Not only did Shelyn and Angela meet a lot of people in the industry, the positive feedback inspired them to immediately begin work on their next event.
They are now actively seeking partners to work with them at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, October 25-29, 2012. One of the avenues they are exploring is a competition between boat manufacturers to create the best artwork, representing the breast cancer theme, to wrap on their boats. The public would then receive a token with their paid admission ticket to place in a voting box next to their favorite boat. A perpetual trophy would be given to the winning manufacturer to have on display at their facility for the upcoming year. The following year the same competition would be conducted with the perpetual trophy given to the next winner. The goal is to create a highly visible, fun and lasting fundraising opportunity.
Sandy Garcia is a survivor thanks to the amount of breast cancer research done over the past decade. This grassroots effort is her way of ensuring other women get the same opportunities for survival that she did.
To participate in the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show event contact Shelyn Lee at [email protected].
Donations can be made to:
Dina Mallis Klicos
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
One Charles Center
Attn: Dr. Ben Park’s Research
100 N. Charles Street, Ste 234
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
For more information about Dr. Park’s research go to hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org.
Terry Boram contributes regularly to All at Sea Southeast. Whether she’s gunkholing with her husband Clint aboard their Contour trimaran, Tri Dreaming or jumping the mast on a race boat, Terry loves life on the water. Recently she began sharing this passion through her writing and photography. Contact Terry at [email protected].