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Second annual 10k Race 4 FISH takes place Oct. 16

By Staff | Sep 29, 2010

Sanibel firefighters Tom Tracy, Tim Baruett, Brian Howell and Mike Martin joined up with Sotheby's sponsor volunteers LeAne Taylor Suarez, Jim Stewart, Deb Smith, Linda Coin and Barb Rich to promote the upcoming 10k Race 4 FISH on Oct. 16.

Bad weather prevented participants who signed up for last year’s race from

actually hitting the pavement, but after a year of careful planning,

organizers, sponsors and more than 500 projected runners are hopeful that

the second annual 10k Race 4 FISH will be a success, come rain or shine.

“This is a fabulous event and it is the main fundraiser for FISH. With the increase of people that we’re helping — which was more than 900 individuals and families in 2009 — this is a very important event for us,” said FISH President Maggi Feiner. “And so far, the community support has been phenomenal. FISH could not exist if it weren’t for the support of such a great community.”

A group dubbed "The Lazy Flamingoettes" — Tiffany Fortunato, Debbie Fleishans, Donnetta Beck, Laura Laukaitis and Mesha Whitney — are currently in training for the 10k Race 4 FISH.

“FISH has been around for nearly 30 years and was formed under the premise of neighbors helping neighbors, and that’s still the underpinning of our mission today,” said Bill Fellows, who will become the president of FISH in

January of next year.

Of the FISH clientbase, 71 percent are elderly and 13 percent are children.

Services include transportation to and from medical appointments, meals on wheels delivery, health equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, reassurance phone calls and home visits, all of which are handled by 195

dedicated volunteers. But a couple of years ago, FISH saw the need to introduce new services.

Last year, island residents and avid runners Sandy Ramseth and Robert Coscia, pictured above, inspired 10k Race 4 FISH committee co-chair Joel Soobitsky to develop a special island race to benefit FISH.

“When the economy started to get difficult, it drove us to open a walk-in

center on the island, and in that walk-in center we have a food pantry.

We’re now also providing emergency financial assistance for basic human needs, like rent and medical bills,” Fellows said. “We have approximately 100

families that are currently taking advantage of the food pantry and the

emergency financial assistance.”

FISH is also a designated United Way house, which gives the organization

access to many other social service agencies in Lee County, affording FISH

the opportunity to bring enhanced services, such as Healthy Start, to the


The organization’s revenue breaks down into 10 to 12 percent coming from

events like the 10k, 36 percent coming from grants and 52 percent coming

from individual donations.

But, as Fellows pointed out, FISH clients are on island year-round, whereas

most of the organization’s generous donors tend to be snowbirds.

“This presents a challenge in that our revenue tends to be seasonal. Our

largest fundraiser,the 10k Race 4 FISH, takes place when our revenue is at

its lowest and our clients’ needs are greatest,” Fellows said. “Our

community is tremendously supportive. This year we’re planning for over 500 runners and we want to offer a huge thank you to everyone involved —

sponsors, volunteers and participants.”

FISH 10k committee co-chair Joel Soobitsky came up with the idea of a race

last year after talking with two avid island runners, Robert Coscia and

Sandy Ramseth.

“They showed me a picture of them running across the Golden Gate Bridge, and that’s what got me interested in doing this as a fundraising event for

FISH,” Soobitsky said. “Last year we got rained out, but we had a good

time in spite of the weather.”

Not to be discouraged, the 10k committee began working on this year’s race

almost as soon as last year’s event concluded and, in addition to hammering

out complex details like sponsorship, route mapping and of course, getting

runners to sign up, Soobitsky said that a lot of positive thinking and finger-crossing has taken place over the past year.

“We’ve got all the clergy on the island praying for good weather on the day of the race,” he said. “The committee has been excellent this year and we couldn’t do it without the Fort Myers Track Club. They’re really experienced at this, and will ensure a professiomal event.”

And while the main goal of the 10k is to benefit FISH, that doesn’t mean

runners won’t receive recognition for their hard work.

“C.C. Caldwell designed the award medallions with shells that we obtained from Seashells.com. She’s painted them gold, silver and bronze and they really look great,” Soobitsky said, noting that members of the FISH board and representatives from the City of Sanibel will hand out 98 awards at the

completion of the race. Winners and pre-registered participants — some from as far away as California — are all guaranteed a t-shirt.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. The runners are all excited and many of them

are coming across the bridge to train on our route,” Soobitsky said.

Runners who don’t live on the island but want to participate in the 10K Race

4 FISH, Soobitsky added, are eligible for a discounted stay at Periwinkle

Trailer Park the night before the race. Call Dick Muench at Periwinkle Park,

471-1433, for more details.

“We want as big a turnout as we can get to help FISH,” said 10k committee

co-chair Ed Ridlehoover. “It’s all about giving back to the community and

the people on the island that need the help. Of course, there are all kinds

of ways to support FISH other than financially — picking up food donations

from different donors or establishments, delivering meals on wheels, driving people to doctor’s appointments, delivering medical equipment or even just

answering phones at the walk-in center.”

While most of the major sponsorship opportunities have passed, there are

still a couple of options left for island businesses that want to contribute

to the 10k race.

“For $50, you can still get a vendor table at our expo at the Community House, or you can be a ‘Friend of FISH’ sponsor for $250 and receive

recognition in the FISH newsletter,” said Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of

Commerce Marketing Director Bridgit Stone-Budd. “All sponsorship dollars go

to benefit FISH and this race is a great way to support your local

community. So, get out there and run — or walk — for a good cause!”

For more information about sponsorship opportunities, contact FISH board

member Blanaid Colley at Blanaid@hillgate.biz or 472-3400.

Pre-registration for the race is $25. Entry forms are available for download

at www.FISHofSanibel.com or www.FtMyersTrackClub.com. Participants can also pick up an entry form at the FISH Walk-in Center, 1630 Periwinkle Way.

Day-of registration, which costs $30, begins at 6:30 a.m. and the race begins at 7:30 a.m.

A vendor expo will take place from 7 a.m. to noon and donations for the FISH

food pantry — such as food items, paper products and toiletries — will

gladly be accepted on the day of the event at the race start location, the

Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way. Additional parking is

available across from the Community House at the Herb Strauss Schoolhouse


For more information about FISH, go to www.FISHofSanibel.com