Relay For Life
Show your support for the local American Cancer Society by attending this year’s Relay for Life on
The 2019 version of the Shoot Down Kids Cancer fundraiser was extra special and especially poignant. Held recently at Gulf Coast Clays in Port of the Islands, the annual contest benefits the American Cancer Society – Marco Island.
A record number of shooters, 105 in total, took part in this year’s “sporting clay” shooting contest, which supports pediatric cancer research. The event also raised a record amount of money, roughly $52,000 after expenses. The previous high was about $43,000.
“This is the largest (turnout) we’ve had,” said Don Henderson, who co-founded the contest with fellow Marco office board member Gary Landis. “Every year, it just keeps getting a little bigger, which is the objective.”
Shoot Down Kids Cancer celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Henderson said the event began with the Marco office searching for ideas for a fundraiser which led him to suggest starting a sporting clays competition at Gulf Coast Clays.
“We set this up and fortunately, we’ve had people who bought into the program, supported us and we’ve grown it from there,” he added.
Landis agreed, recalling with a chuckle that when Shoot Down Kids Cancer debuted, they were so unsure of its success that they were afraid to call it an annual shoot.
After praising the contributions of the event’s many sponsors in its success, Landis said Shoot Down Kids Cancer has become an annual tradition.
“That’s the nice thing about our shoot,” he explained. “It’s kind of a gathering of friends. The same people come back every year. It’s always familiar faces and our sponsors are always the same.”
Sponsors for 2019 included Bass Pro Shops, Wayne Bergquist Guns and Gunsmithing, the Browning Arms Company, Cole Guns and Gunsmithing, Gulf Coast Clays, Henry Repeating Firearms, Joseph’s Custom Clothier, Kids and Clays, the Kirk Fish Company, Coastal Beverage, Quail Creek Plantation, Sea Tow, Stan’s Idle Hour, the Little Bar, Starbucks, the Old Marco Lodge, the Island Country Club and Corrie Grado.
“It’s a big field for a great cause,” said Lisa Honig, senior director for distinguished events for the American Cancer Society’s Southeast Region and former executive director of the organization’s Marco office.
“This is a great day for the community,” she added. “People just love coming out here for the camaraderie and the fun of doing something competitive, but also knowing that at the end of the day, they’re supporting the American Cancer Society and our programs and research so we can help kids like Chase not have to face this disease.”
By “Chase,” Honig was referring to 15-year-old Chase Martinez, whose presence at the event highlighted the importance of finding a cure.
The youngster suffers from the bone cancer, osteosarcoma, which commonly strikes youths between the ages of 7 and 21. Chase was diagnosed in September, which led to the amputation of his right leg after chemotherapy failed to stop the cancer. While halfway through a post-amputation, six-month-long round of chemo, the Martinez family learned in late February that the disease has spread to Chase’s lungs, leaving him with just four to seven months to live.
The Martinezes reside in the Tulsa, Ok. area. They previously lived in Fort Myers and Naples, where Chase was born, for 13 years. Since receiving the dire prognosis, the family has begun indulging his desire to travel, which brought him, his parents, Jeremy and Kristen, older sister Jaden and older brother Chris, back to Naples to take part in Shoot Down Kids Cancer.
“We’re praying for a miracle,” said Kristin Martinez. “We’re hoping for a miracle. But Chase wants to travel and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Sponsored by Martinez family friend Steven Blount of the Blount Law Firm in Naples, Chase and his siblings teamed up to compete in the contest, along with two youths from Quail Creek Young Guns shooting sports club from Okeechobee. The family enjoys hunting, fishing and skeet shooting.
Aside from silent and voice auctions and raffles to raise funds for the cause, the day also included a special “Chase-ing A Dream” bucket in which donations totaling $2,151 were collected to help the family to cover expenses “in making Chase’s last couple of months as enjoyable as they can be,” said Steven Blount.
After the competition and lunch, which was provided by the Island Country Club, Chase took a moment to reflect on returning to his hometown, saying, “It feels great. I like being around the people that I grew up with. It just brings me back to my roots.”
He was moved by the support shown for both fighting pediatric cancer and for his family.
“It’s just amazing,” said Chase, who was thoroughly enjoying himself. “I can’t thank them enough for having us out here and for having the opportunity to be able to shoot and people are raising money for us; it just feels great.”