The Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix is more than a Fourth of July tradition and local economic booster — many area children’s programs also rely on the money it nets.
But this year, the future of the 29-year-old race was called into question, along with the money its host organization, Suncoast Charities for Children, uses to support these children’s charities.
The Grand Prix was once Suncoast Charities for Children’s largest fundraiser, but, in recent years, the charity has struggled to keep the offshore boat race profitable. Declines in donations and in-kind services, combined with increased race-related expenses, have caused net earnings to drop by 41% since 2010. As a result, the charity remained roughly $45,000 short of the funding needed to host the race.
But, an April 9 County Commission decision to cover the $79,200 race sanction fee from tourist development tax funds will allow the race to take place as originally scheduled. Also approved were in-kind services up to $3,500 and a sports marketing grant from the Sarasota County Sports Commission of $15,000.
Commissioners also decided to include the race sanction fee in next year’s budget.
Festival organizer Lucy Nican- dri says the decision comes as good news for both the community and Suncoast Charities, which will now be able to give more money to its children’s organizations.
“The biggest expense is funding the race,” says Nicandri. “By budgeting for the race next year, we can plan better, and when we produce the other events, those sponsorships can go directly to the charities.”
Suncoast Charities for Children, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves special-needs children and their families in Sarasota, Venice and North Port, uses its various fundraisers, such as Thunder by the Bay and the Grand Prix, to build and maintain facilities for local special-needs children’s agencies. In the last 28 years, the charity has donated $14 million for the construction of facilities for six local agencies.
Nicandri says the commission’s decision was the result of both public outreach and a desire to keep the race in Sarasota.
With the race back on schedule, Nicandri says Suncoast Charities for Children will be able to continue to maintain and support the charity facilities it has helped build.
“We’ve been a safety net for (charities),” she says. “If we were unable to provide this money, they would definitely see an impact.”
At a Glance
Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix net earnings for Suncoast Charities for Children by year.
2010 | $97,000
2011 | $60,000
2012 | $57,000
• Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities
• The Florida Center for Early Childhood
• Loveland Center Inc.
• Special Athlete Boosters
• Children First
• Special Olympics of Sarasota County