Raising Money on the Water – A Volunteer Story

Annual Fly Fishing Tournament Helps Benefit CCFA

Never underestimate the power of a circle of great friends. What started off as a shared passion for fishing between a small group of buddies has now become one of the most successful fundraisers for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Mitch Widom, along with his brother Glenn, started the Sabadell United Bank Keymorada Fly-Spin Invitational Tournament after his daughter Taylor was diagnosed with Crohn’s when she was just 10 years old.

“Originally we had hoped to raise $25,000 to $30,000 and in the first year of the event, we raised $150,000,” said Mitch. “The amount of support we receive is nothing short of amazing.”

Now in its eighth year, the tournament has raised more than $3 million dollars for CCFA with the help of sponsors, dedicated family and friends, and some 300 lawyers and law firms who come together for one cause: cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

The event expanded naturally, but not without the help of hard work. “The key to success is to have a great committee,” Mitch said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

The event begins with a large cocktail reception welcoming the fishermen to the Cheeca Lodge & Spa, a gorgeous luxury resort in the Florida Keys.

The two-day fishing tournament begins early the next day at 5:30 a.m. with breakfast, after which assigned fishing teams huddle together before going off for an eight-hour day of fishing.  Each evening, guests are treated to a dinner party.  The official tournament concludes with an awards banquet where guests dine on fish caught by tournament participants.

While the entry fees vary, $1,795 secures a single spot in one of the resort’s beautiful private rooms and entrance into the tournament.

“The event raises the money it does because it has a multifaceted fundraising approach. We have cash sponsors, but we also sell raffle tickets. We have an online silent auction and we also have what we call the LexisNexis Challenge,” Mitch explained.

The LexisNexis Law Firm Challenge awards a trophy to the law firm that makes the largest cash donation.  Fishing companies donate some of the goods given away during the raffle and auction.

“You can only do a fishing tournament where you have access and relationships. Florida is a very big fishing area.  It’s all about building relationships. The key is to establish a relationship with the venue where you are hosting it,” says Ellen Shapiro, former president of the CCFA Florida chapter who has volunteered for the event since its inception. “They have to understand what your goal is and what your mission is. In order for it to be successful, you have to work together.”

The Widoms advise other volunteers interested in creating their own charitable fundraising event to leverage a personal passion, then find a legion of devoted individuals who can help bring that vision to life.

“For me, running this tournament has been especially rewarding because I know I am helping people – especially my daughter,” said Mitch. “She sees us working hard and she sees hope. There is no better feeling than that.” 

The Keymorda Invitational Fly-Spin Tournament takes place each year during the second week of May in Islamorada, Florida. If you’re interested in fishing, participating as a Law Firm Challenger or as a Tournament Sponsor, more information can be found on the Tournament’s website at: www.keymoradafishing.com or by e-mailing Mitch Widom at mwidom@bilzin.com, or Glenn Widom at gwidom@gwidomlaw.com.