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9th Annual Ryan McClesky Memorial Redfish Challenge set for this weekend

By Staff | May 14, 2013

Event organizers are still seeking anglers to take part in this weekend’s 9th Annual Ryan McCleskey Memorial Redfish Challenge, which kicks off Friday evening with a captains’ meeting.

The two redfish tournament runs from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, with weigh-ins at the Cape Harbour Marina. It is catch and release with an honor start, so participants do not have to start at the marina.

“We kind of make it easy for them to start where they want,” Kristin McCleskey, Ryan McCleskey’s widow, said.

The entry fee is $250 per team for up to four anglers; each additional angler is $50. The three teams that land the heaviest fish – the total combined weight of two redfish caught – will score prizes.

The event record is just under 15 pounds total.

“We pay for first, second and third place,” she said.

First place wins $1,500, second place earns $750 and third place scores $500.

As of Tuesday, 33 boats had signed up to participate.

“We do a silent auction, a raffle and, obviously, the dinner immediately following the tournament at the Cape Harbour,” McCleskey said.

There are about 20 items up for auction.

“Ranging anywhere from vacations, to art work,” she said.

More than a dozen local businesses have donated items for the raffle, including fishing equipment and gift certificates. Tournament T-shirts and visors will also be available for sale during the event.

Saturday’s dinner will consist of barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs for the children, beverages and such. Those not participating in the tournament are asked to provide a small donation to enjoy the dinner.

All proceeds from the tournament benefit Barbara’s Friends, the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida Cancer Fund, which helps assist local children in their fight against cancer.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds go to Barbara’s Friends,” McCleskey said.

Last year, the event raised about $14,000. About $65,000 has been raised since its inception.

“We’re hoping to raise another $15,000,” she said of this year’s fund-raising goal.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital is the only acute care facility between Tampa and Miami. A new 292,000-square-foot, 128-bed children’s hospital is being built on the campus of Health Park Medical Center. All funds raised through May 2014 will be matched by Tom Golisano – up to $20 million.

“It’s in our own backyard and the care that they provide is bar none,” McCleskey said.

“They’re going to name a room after Ryan at the new children’s hospital,” she added.

Ryan McCleskey was diagnosed at 22 with a rare form of cancer. A Navy diver stationed in Hawaii, he was mainly treated by pediatric oncology units, including the one at the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“That’s where he was being treated here in Southwest Florida,” McCleskey said.

His family, friends and acquaintances came up with the idea for the tournament to raise awareness and funds in the fight against cancer. Originally from Florida, Ryan McCleskey was a “huge” fisherman.

“He spent his life growing up on the water,” McCleskey said. “Redfish were his favorite.”

On Feb. 3, 2006, Ryan McCleskey’s own battle with the disease ended.

“It’s a great local event,” she said of the tournament. “We do it just with volunteers.”

The deadline to register is the captains’ meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Twisted Conch.

People can also sign up online at: www.ryansredfishchallenge.com, then pay Friday.

The Twisted Conch is at 837 S.E. 47th Terrace.

The Cape Harbour Marina is at 5828 Cape Harbour Drive.

For more information, visit the Web site or call Kristin McCleskey at (239) 699-7426.

For information on Barbara’s Friends or the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, visit online at: www.ChildrensHospitalGoal.org.