With the first race of the American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series happening just a couple of hours south in Cocoa Beach, Fla., the Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run had a least one event to compete with last weekend. And yet the Jacksonville event didn’t just hold its own—it raised a record-setting $18,295 for Camp Amigo, the most money yet brought in for the charity, which serves children recovering from serious burn injuries, under organizers Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman.
“We are very happy that our decision to change the dates from June to mid-May paid off in boat count and donations,” said Harris. “The weather was certainly a few degrees cooler than our June dates have been in the past, and the new Friday lunch run was a hit. The staff at Palm Valley Outdoors did fantastic job with the docks and our sizable group all arriving at once.”
The fleet included a mix of high-performance center consoles such as this Nor-Tech, catamarans and V-bottoms.
The event’s 2019 fundraising total upped that of 2018 by 50 percent. With 38 high-performance boats in Saturday’s poker run on the St. Johns River, donations averaged more than $500 per boat. The fleet included a total of six sponsor boats from Iconic Marine Group—the event’s title backer— Adrenaline Powerboats, Mystic Powerboats and Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats.
“The 50-percent increase in the donation amount shows that our event is showing growth through our efforts, and the efforts of our yearly attendees,” said Harris. “They want to share their experience and we think we offer a great value for anyone willing to give our venue a chance.”
A new addition to the event, Friday’s fun run proved popular with participants and sponsors including Adrenaline Powerboats.
Harris and Aleman plan to tackle organizing the event again in 2020. But for now, they’re taking a well-earned break and looking forward to attending—rather than organizing—a few go-fast boating events with Mad Props, their wild 32-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran.
“Leading up to this past weekend, I was done,” said Aleman. “I had no idea how I was going to make it through the weekend. I don’t know how Greg and I made it through four years of planning this event, and I had pretty much said, ‘This is it, I’m not doing this anymore. This is the last year.’
“And of course—lo and behold—you’re there with your friends, and Mr. Pyburn (Sr.) is there with you talking and before you know it there are three or four firefighters at your boat coming up to you and saying, ‘Thank you so much.’ And you’re seeing the generosity and the work a news channel has done interviewing a camper and you just say, ‘OK, let look at the calendar for next year. Let’s pick next year’s dates.”