Suncoast Charities for Children executive director Lucy Nicandri, Simon Williams of Shore Thing Storage and the rest of the people behind the inaugural Sarasota Blast On The Bay Fun in Southwest Florida were more than satisfied with the $44,000 the event raised on Saturday, June 27. But the news got even better for everyone involved when Azam Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of United Kingdom-headquartered Powerboat P1, let Nicandri know yesterday that the Rangoonwala Foundation will donate $6,000 to bring the fundraising total to an even $50,000.
The purpose of Blast On The Bay was to augment money lost for Suncoast Charities For Children when the weeklong Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival was cancelled. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix/speedonthwater.com.
For the past several years, Rangoonwala has worked closely with Nicandri to produce powerboat and personal watercraft races as part of the weeklong Sarasota Grand Prix Festival, which was cancelled this year as a result of COVID-19 pandemic guidelines and restrictions. That left the charity in a shortfall position and led to the daylong Blast On The Bay powerboat rally/fundraiser.
All proceeds from the event will to the nonprofit Suncoast Charities for Children organization.
“This gift is from Azam personally through the Rangoonwala Foundation, which is managed by his sister Meheen,” said Nicandri. “His family foundation recognizes the fact that those with special needs still need to receive critical programs and services, despite the recent pandemic, and that the need for services has significantly increased because of the pandemic.”
“My dad (Asif Rangoonwala, who founded the original P1 series) has always told me that you have to give back to the people around you,” said Rangoonwala. “From the beginning of working with Lucy and Suncoast Charities for Children, I always wanted to do something with them. One of the foundation’s first projects with them was building a multi-sensory room. It was funny. When I told my dad about it, he told me one of his first charitable projects back in ‘80s or ’90s was a multi-sensory room.”
Rangoonwala has twice witnessed Suncoast Charities for Children’s outreach firsthand. To celebrate his birthday in March 2018 and 2019, he sponsored and attended a party at The Haven in Sarasota. The Haven serves more than 700 special needs clients of all ages—and they were all invited.
“Many of The Haven’s had never experienced a birthday party before,” said Nicandri. “Since Azam was not able to hold an event at one of the agencies for his birthday this past March, he felt making this donation was extremely important.
“In 2018 Azam treated them to a magic show, catered lunch, meet and greet with some racers, and of course cake and ice cream,” she continued. “In 2019 Azam held a talent show where clients could do skits on stage to the audience – it was called ‘The Haven’s Got Talent’ and everyone was a winner. There were carnival style food booths setup and once again lunch and a great time was had by all.”
Said Rangoonwala, “We always celebrate for ourselves on our birthdays and it’s a bit of a selfish thing. In 2018, I was in the states, and I thought, ‘Why not celebrate my birthday by throwing a party with the clients at The Haven instead of one for just me and my friends?’ Some of the special needs kids and even adults there had never even seen a magician before.
“The following year, we sat down and brainstormed my next birthday,” he continued. “And like granddad used to do in Pakistan, we decided to make it a bit of a talent show. Seeing these kids and adults, most of whom had never performed before, performing and discovering hidden talents they didn’t know they had was just amazing.”
With the party a no-go this year, Rangoonwala still wanted to do something for Suncoast Charities for Children. The fundraising shortfall created by the cancellation of the Sarasota Grand Prix Festival provide a perfect window for giving.
Rangoonwala has a personal connection to Suncoast Charities For Children.
“Prior to speaking to Azam, I had received a call earlier in the day from a family who lost their jobs and needed to find assistance for their twin daughters who both have Down Syndrome,” said Nicandri. “Needless to say, after Azam called I was a bit emotional. Quite often the general public does not realize how hard the pandemic has affected those with special needs and their families. Many families experiencing unexpected financial hardships and are in dire need of food, shelter, clothes and a safe place where their son or daughter with special needs can receive services—or simply a place to live.
“With everything going on in the world today, it is comforting to know folks like Azam—and everyone who participated and donated to Suncoast Charities for Children in support of—Blast On The Bay—are out there,” she continued. “My sincere thanks goes out each and every one of them.”
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