For Burl Griswold and the entire team at Antelope Point Marina in Page, Ariz., there was more reason than ever to celebrate on Wednesday night. Not only was a portion of the marina’s slips as well as its fuel dock back in working order following a strong microclimate storm that zeroed in on Lake Powell last Thursday, the team determined that its ninth annual Lake Powell Challenge was going to donate a half-million dollars to the Mountain Valley Chapter of JDRF. To this journalist’s knowledge, that is the largest amount of money raised at any performance boat event.
It’s not a whole other planet, but the scenic Lake Powell sure seems like it. All photos by Tom Leigh/Tommy Gun Images
Pretty incredible. Thanks to the most participation in the event’s history—82 boats, which is nothing to write home about in terms of poker run participation figures—the Lake Powell Challenge is donating $500,000 to the organization dedicated to fighting Type One diabetes.
“I can’t believe it, I really can’t,” said Griswold, who thought a realistic $350,000 to $400,000 figure, still well beyond last year’s $250,000 mark, was within reach. “That amount of money makes it worth going through one of the most difficult weekends of my life. The storm came through and broke apart some of the docks and we couldn’t sell gas. Fortunately a lot of people around here stepped up and lent a hand.
“The generosity that the boaters here displayed was incredible,” he continued. “I can’t tell you how many of them asked me what they could do to help instead of complaining about the situation. I’ll never forget this year. It went from the nastiest storm I’ve ever seen in the 12 years I’ve been at the lake to the coolest event I’ve ever been a part of.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images from the Lake Powell Challenge.
Arizona performance boater Mark Schouten, who owns a DCB Performance Boats M41 Widebody catamaran with twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines, echoed Griswold’s sentiments.
“This year’s Lake Powell Challenge was absolutely amazing,” said Schouten, who said he probably ran close to 500 miles between Friday’s lunch run (and other exploration) and Saturday’s poker run. “I’m so proud of how the group of boaters who participated came together. Certainly there was adversity because of Thursday’s storm—but no one complained and everyone figured out how to make it work and help out where they could.
“I’m also blown away by the philanthropy of the boating community,” he continued. “A lot of it has to do with the organizers and the vendors that donate everything to offset the costs so the charity can benefit to the maximum capacity. Knowing that all the dollars you donate goes directly to charity makes giving that much easier. And nothing proved that more than the Lake Powell Challenge this year. Get this, the younger brother of these twin brothers who have Type 1 diabetes and were there with JDRF, got up and danced during the auction and I bet he collected a couple thousand dollars by people throwing money on the stage. The generosity was next level.”
It was a little more than $5,000 actually.
“There were 47 hundreds on the stage and a bunch more cash—I couldn’t believe it,” Griswold said. “That’s the type of community we’re talking about. All of the poker run winners donated their winnings back to the cause. I know I say this every year, but I’ve never been around another community like this one. I can’t wait to see what we can do next year. I want to see if we can be our JDRF chapter’s largest fundraiser.”
In terms of successful auction fundraisers, the custom “header” chair (right, click image to enlarge) made by Barrett Custom Marine took the cake when longtime event supporter Steve Lyman bought the unique piece for $28,000. Adrian Barrett said he and the team who chipped in the first time would build a second chair if someone else was willing to put up at least $10,000, and it went for $16,000.
“We figured the chair would bring some money in but we didn’t expect to raise $44,000,” said Barrett, who has attended the run for six straight years with several of his company’s customers, and the fleet keeps getting larger. “I’m in awe over the amount of money that’s raised year after year and how it continues to grow. It’s such a cool event. For most of my customers, it’s their favorite run of the year.”
One notable first-time participant—MTI owner Randy Scism, who ran one of the two outboard-powered MTI 340X catamarans on hand for the event—was in awe over the event, the scenery and the fundraising that took place.
“The Lake Powell Challenge offered some different boating than we’re used to,” said Scism, who has an expansive on-water experience to draw from ranging from his hometown lake—Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks—to the Florida Keys, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and even Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “The best part was that you didn’t just go boating for 20 or 30 miles and it was over. We ran more than 200 miles on Friday just exploring the lake, and during the poker run we got close to that. It’s such a nice place. I can’t compare it to anything else.”
In terms of money raised, there is no comparison.
“We do a lot of fundraisers and I can tell you, the Lake Powell Challenge isn’t a typical fundraising event,” said Mike Somers, executive director of the Mountain Valley Chapter of JDRF, which is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. “These boaters work hard, play hard, have fun and give a bunch of money. It’s been amazing to see the event grow over the last five years I’ve been involved with it.
“It really is nothing short of fascinating and exciting to see not only the passion these boaters have for their boats and the camaraderie they all share, but to witness the generosity they all share,” continued Somers, who was joined by his staff and 22 other volunteers who assisted with registration and other tasks throughout the week. “This year’s auction was one of the most fantastic live auctions I’ve ever seen. The Lake Powell Challenge is by far the most unique event in our chapter, and I’m guessing it’s one of the more unique events in all of JDRF. We’re just happy to be a part of it and be able to work hand in hand with the team at Antelope Point Marina.”
No doubt it was a team effort. There’s no way an event could get to the point where a $500,000 donation would be possible otherwise.
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