Fins Weekend is turning 20, and they're throwing a heck of a party in its honor.
Organizers are expecting roughly 1,000 people to pack Miami Beach's marina Friday night for the Dolphins Foundation’s signature event -- the fishing tournament’s captains’ party -- making it, for a few hours at least, the biggest bash on South Beach.
It’s probably beyond anything Scott Chait could have imagined when he thought up the Dolphins’ charity fishing outing two decades ago.
Chait was a young member of the Miami Dolphins’ communications staff. He also had cystic fibrosis, a progressive respitatory condition that is usually fatal.
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It was for Chait, even after a double lung transplant.
Before he passed, however, Chait was the brains behind a team fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: a fishing tournament bringing together members of the team and the community.
The beginnings? They were modest, even with then-coach Jimmy Johnson’s help. Just 13 boats participated.
On Saturday, they expect more than five times that amount. No other event will bring together more Dolphins players and coaches.
“This was his dream to do it,” said Jeff Peck, chairman of what is now known as Fins Weekend. “He passed away before we did the first event. I tell everyone that I've been the custodian of his dream for the past 20 years.”
Peck has been more than a capable steward.
The event has since added a golf tournament -- which will be held Friday morning at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne -- and has lined up a slew of title sponsors. Baptist Health’s sports medicine institute, Hook & Tackle and Hooters South Florida are among the event’s corporate partners.
Every dollar counts. The Dolphins Foundation is the organization’s fundraising arm, bankrolling the team’s three major initatives: education, health and volunteerism.
This weekend’s primary focus is on the first of those three. The team is in Year 2 of a four-year, $1 million partnership with City Year, a non-profit that whose goal is to keep high school kids from high-poverty areas in school and on track to graduate.
The money raised this weekend will specifically go to help students of Carol City and Norland high schools -- both of which are basically in the backyard of the Dolphins’ stadium.
Odette Clayton, the program manager for City Year at Norland, said the foundation’s annual contribution “provide[s] resources that we don’t have the funding to support” -- like a recent book fair, in which 200 books were given away.
Attendance and graduation rates have improved, thanks (at least in small part) to City Year. There’s also the after-school program that helps dozens of underprivileged kids get extra attention.
“[The funding] really helps a lot,” Clayton added.
While the golf event is sold out -- 36 four-somes have registered -- there are still spots in the fishing touranament available. Information is available at FinsWeekend.com.