- September 15, 2016
Suncoast Charities for Children is working through a transition period.
The organization, which raises money through events for nonprofits including Children First and Special Olympics of Sarasota, has had a tried-and-true schedule for the summer and spring. That includes helping host the annual P1powerboat races each summer, organizing sponsors for the fireworks display at Bayfront Park and putting on the Thunder by the Bay motorcycle show each spring.
The COVID-19 pandemic initiated a time of change for the organization. Executive Director Lucy Nicandri said she and staff took a look at their programming lineup and felt they needed to let go of old events and try new ones.
“We took a step back to see what was raising money,” Nicandri said. “We kept seeing a continual financial loss for the charity producing the boat race.”
After a transition year, Suncoast Charities for Children has stopped involvement with the boat races in favor of hosting its own Suncoast Summer Fest programming lineup.
“We noticed all the summer events were having a good return,” Nicandri said. “We’re seeing an increase in demand with the organizations we serve. … Thunder by the Bay is our big event in February but we need to raise income in the summer.”
The ultimate hope is that the summer festival reaches a size similar to Thunder by the Bay, which has historically raised around $200,000 a year. Nicandri concedes it will take time and patience, but she said there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.
“This was our second year having a Waves and Wheels party and we saw a big growth,” Nicanrdri said. “We were at around 125 (guests) last year, and this year was more than 200.
The festival — June 24 to July 14 — has featured a golf tournament, the fireworks display, a fishing tournament, a recent Waves and Wheels party and concert and a poker tournament on July 14.
The Wheels and Waves party at Robarts Arena on July 9 featured food and drinks as well as music from the Hurricane Shane band. There were also casino-style gambling tables, which Nicandri was happy to see was a hit.
“We’d never done them before,” Nicandri said. “I took a look at the dance floor and it was empty for a while, people just loved being at the tables.”
It was an assuring element before the organization puts on its first poker tournament on July 14, a first for the organization. Nicadri consulted with other events organizations and heard poker tournaments were a hot thing and has since brought in 50 players.
Nicandri feels the new schedule and focus has benefited her and fellow staffer Lisa Baer, who have devoted more time to fundraising and securing sponsorships rather than organizing the boat races.
Nicandri has been happy with Suncoast Summer Fest’s performance so far. The event lineup raised more than $100,000 in 2021 and she hopes they can exceed that this year. She knows it’ll take some time for guests to get used to the new brand but she’s excited to see where it goes.
“We want to morph it to be as big as Thunder By The Bay,” Nicandri said. “It’s going to take time but in the coming years I think you’ll see more events being added and expanded.”