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Memorial fishing tournament raises funds for Tidewell Hospice

Chad Day, who was an East County resident, was an avid fisherman. He died of brain cancer in 2015. His memory is now honored through the Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament.

Chad Day loved fishing. He always was out around East County fishing and participating in tournaments.
Chad Day loved fishing. He always was out around East County fishing and participating in tournaments.
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Even when his health was at its worst, nothing stopped East County’s Chad Day from fishing. 

He was undergoing treatment for brain cancer, yet he was determined to participate in a fishing tournament.

Day came home to his mother Joann Day filled with excitement. He won $1,000 at the tournament for the biggest trout.

Now Lakewood Ranch’s Joann Day hosts the Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament annually in honor of her son, who died from his brain cancer in 2015. The event, held April 20-21 at Tarpon Bay Grill & Tiki Bar, 7150 Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, benefits Tidewell Hospice.

Chad’s love for fishing stems from his childhood when his family moved into Carlton Arms of Bradenton in 2000 when he was 10 years old. He would go fishing in the ponds by the apartment complex with his friends.

Throughout his life, he would grab his fishing pole and head to a lake.

It was during a fishing trip when the first signs of his brain tumor emerged.

Joann said her son was going fishing by himself one afternoon in February 2014 when he stepped out of his truck, he felt his arm go in the air and he started seizing. A stranger must have helped him because the next thing he knew, he was in an ambulance on his way to Manatee Memorial Hospital calling Joann to tell her what happened.

Joann Day said when she received the call, she thought her son was in a car accident. Upon arriving at the hospital, she discovered that wasn’t the case as Chad explained doctors were doing tests.

Lakewood Ranch's Joann Day hosts the Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament in honor of her son, Chad Day, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
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Joann said she thought Chad simply hadn’t had enough to eat that day and passed out.

When a doctor came to speak to them and introduced himself as an oncologist, Joann and Chad were confused. They couldn’t believe what was happening.

The doctor told them a mass was found on Chad’s brain, and they needed to go to Moffitt Cancer Center immediately.

Chad broke down in tears.

“He said to me, ‘Mom, I always knew I wasn’t going to live past 30,’” Joann recalled. “I said, ‘No, no, we got this.’”

After going to Moffitt Cancer Center, Chad and Joann found out Chad had a glioblastoma, a tumor affecting the brain. 

The diagnosis was devastating. Joann said she was an avid runner before the diagnosis, but since hearing the news, she could barely get herself out of bed. She would go out every night because she didn’t want to sit at home thinking about it. 

“For a long time, it was hard to face reality,” she said. “I didn’t want to.”

On Feb. 18, 2014, Chad had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Afterward, he began radiation and chemotherapy. 

He wasn’t getting better, so his doctors put him in a clinical trial in January 2015. The trial was unsuccessful.

Chad was having difficulty walking, using his right hand and his quality of life was diminishing. The chemotherapy he was given was only making him sick.

Joann said she couldn’t see her son suffer any longer and decided to discontinue treatment so her son could enjoy the time he had left. 

In February 2015, Chad and Joann took a trip to their home state of Ohio so Chad could go sledding and see snow again. They went to Magic Mountain Fun Center where he was able to get in an inner tube and go sledding. Joann loved being able to give her son some moments of joy. 

In April, Chad and Joann returned to Moffitt where they learned the cancer had spread throughout Chad’s brain. 

Joann needed help caring for Chad at home, so she reached out to Tidewell Hospice. 

Tidewell Hospice took over care for Chad, and that included supplying his medications, sending a nurse to their home three times per week and giving them a wheelchair and bed.

Although she had help, Joann said it became too difficult to care for Chad alone at home, so they moved into a room at Tidewell’s Bradenton Hospice House in May 2015. 

Joann made the room as comfortable as possible, adding what she could to make it feel like home, including bringing Chad’s cat, Hazel. She put picture frames around the room as well. 

“The nurses and doctor there were really nice, and they were just as concerned with me as they were with (Chad),” Joann said. “I don’t know what I would have done without their help because they took care of everything. I was just there to be with him. They were caring and compassionate about everything, so it allowed me to be the mom (rather than the caretaker).” 

Chad died at Tidewell Hospice on May 16, 2015, at 24 years old. 

“I just admired his bravery throughout the whole thing,” Joann said of her son. 

Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament attendees show their support by participating in the silent auction and raffle. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Tidewell Foundation.
Courtesy image

When Joann was looking for a way to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association, she knew a fishing tournament would be the perfect way to honor her son. 

In 2017, she hosted her first tournament hoping to raise money to find a cure for brain cancer. 

When Joann brought the tournament back in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to have the proceeds donated to the Tidewell Foundation in appreciation for all the care and support provided for Chad at no cost. The tournament raised at least $8,000 for Tidewell. 

Since then, the Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament has raised approximately $50,000 for the Tidewell Foundation. 

“I feel like I haven’t repaid them back enough,” Joann said of donating to the Tidewell Foundation. “I’m grateful for all the people who have always donated throughout the years because if they hadn’t, then (Chad) never would have received the care he did. I know $50,000 doesn’t even touch what was spent on Chad.”

Although the fundraiser is a fishing tournament, Joann said the event is family friendly and open to anyone. It will have activities for everyone as well as a silent auction and raffle. 

“It’s a celebration of life,” said Alan Dormeyer, Joann’s husband.



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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