The Suncoast Charities for Children Vice President Lucy Nicandri said a perception that the city of Sarasota and Marina Jack restaurant fund Fourth of July fireworks and the 2012 Super Boat Grand Prix Festival is hampering the organization’s fundraising.
Nicandri said the organization still needs to raise $49,600 for the 28th annual event this summer.
Nicandri told the Sarasota County Commission at its regular meeting May 9 that the organization is responsible for raising enough cash sponsorships each year to pay for the more than $80,000 it costs to put on the boat race and the $36,000 needed for the annual fireworks event. The 12-day festival runs from June 23 to July 4 this year.
The city of Sarasota, due to budget constraints, hasn’t paid for the fireworks for years, leaving The Suncoast Charities for Children to raise enough money for the event, she said.
“We, alone, are responsible for producing fireworks and the race,” Nicandri said, “not an independent provider.”
Other additional expenses the charity must come up with each year are funds for cranes, helicopters and the use of nearby parking areas.
Nicandri said Marina Jack has been helpful in leveraging its vendors for the event.
“But we have to raise private and corporate donations to cover the cost of the fireworks,” Nicandri said.
The city of Sarasota pays for the cost of its Police Department and Public Works Department personnel who must monitor the festival. Sarasota County also is closing the boat ramp at Centennial Park and roping off an area of beach for an exclusive VIP viewing area to generate additional revenues to support the event.
Right now, FCCI Insurance and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing (Budweiser) are the event’s main sponsors, with $15,000 contributions from each organization. The charity is also hopeful it will receive a sports-marketing grant that could be worth as much as $15,000.
“The challenge we face is a lot of the general public still think both the race and fireworks are funded by the city and private entities and they’re not,” Nicandri said. “Our charities have to independently go out and raise money to produce the race and fireworks.”
Nicandri also noted they don’t charge the general public to watch the boat race or the fireworks and are unable to capture that revenue.
“That’s what makes sponsorship so important,” Nicandri said.
Nicandri said other cities and counties have tried to recruit the festival, but she has no plans to move it as long as sponsorships and donations are sufficient to keep it running locally.
“Please remember this is one of the biggest festivals in our area,” Nicandri said.
Last year’s boat race festival created a $12.7 million local impact, with $6.8 million in direct expenditures and 12,680 hotel rooms sold during the event.
And this year’s Thunder on the Bay, which Suncoast Charities for Children also sponsors, created a $6.2 million impact, with $3.2 million in direct expenditures and an estimated 2,200 hotel rooms sold during the event.
“We are glad to see the real face behind these two events,” said County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. “We’re lucky to have these events here locally.”
WHERE TO DONATE
Suncoast Charities For Children is a non-profit organization serving children with special needs and their families in the Sarasota, Venice and North Port areas for the past 27 years. The charity directly services and funds five other non-profit agencies in the area that include Children First, Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities, The Florida Center, Loveland Center Inc. and Oak Park School. Those agencies were constructed from proceeds from the boat races years ago. Revenues raised today continue to maintain facilities and help with funding the charities, especially when they have budget deficits.
Those interested in making a donation to Suncoast Charities for Children and its special events should call 371-8820, Ext. 1123, visit www.suncoastcharitiesforchildren.org or email [email protected].