“He had meningitis in his brain, so he stopped walking, moving,” Elva Nieto said. “He had to start all over again. Then after that he got the seizures.”
Elva cares for Anthony as well as her two other children Daniel, 15, and Mia, 4. She says his seizures are a daily occurrence. They usually strike in the morning.When Hurricane Irma made its second landfall in Florida last September, it hit hard. Many Southwest Florida homes were devastated, including the Nieto’s. As of right now, the family is homeless. For the past few months they’ve been living with relatives.
Over the weekend 256 bicyclists took to the streets of Marco Island to participate in the ninth annual Tour de Taverns event. The Island Bike Shop donated bicycles to those without, free of charge.Despite weather that dipped into the low 60s and a bout of rain, participants were energetic. They arrived ready for a day of drinking, biking, and fundraising. Many came decked out in holiday-inspired outfits, while others were bundled up in raincoats and sweaters. This year, all proceeds are set to benefit the Nieto family. SpeakEasy co-owner, Jimmy Boylan, founded the pub-crawl back in 2008. The inaugural event had just 60 participants. Over the years the Tour de Taverns has transformed. What began as a lighthearted drinking event “just for fun,” quickly turned into a philanthropic tour de force. This year over $12,980 was raised, with more donations expected to come in.
Jimmy Boylan says he discovered the Nieto family after reaching out to the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers. After her hearing their unique story, he decided that the people of Marco Island could lend a helping hand.“I reach out to [Golisano Children’s Hospital] every year and see if they have anyone that’s in trouble, that’s sick, or needs our help,” Jimmy Boylan said.
The Tour de Taverns officially kickedoff at Mario’s Bar and Grill. There, participants were served Bloody Marys and mimosas, alongside a breakfast buffet. Bikers were encouraged to go at their own pace, so long as they made it back to the SpeakEasy by 3 PM. Many traveled in large groups with family and friends.
The next stop along the way was the Crazy Flamingo. The bicyclists then made their way across town to the Salty Dog of Marco Island, which opened just for the occasion. Following the Salty Dog they biked over to CJ’s on the Bay, then down to Olde Marco where they visited the Snook Inn and the Old Marco Pub. Finally, the 256 bicyclists ended their tour at The SpeakEasy, where tons of prizes were raffled off and more money was raised for the cause.Present that day was the Nieto family. Anthony is small in stature. He wears big eyeglasses and an even bigger smile. He spent a majority of the afternoon hanging out near performer Johnny Fusco, dancing and having fun.
“He was having a blast,” Jimmy Boylan said. “That was my favorite part.”