By Lucy Chabot Reed
It started innocently enough, organize a dinner and raffle off a Seabob, hopefully raise a few thousand dollars for the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation.
But by the time it was over – in about 15 minutes – the room full of yacht captains, crew and industry raised nearly $40,000.
“It was incredible what took place,” said Dean Dutoit, owner of National Marine Suppliers and host of the event held during the Fort Lauderdale boat show. “I didn’t even know what to do. We went from zero to $39,000 in 15 minutes. The generosity of this industry continues to amaze me.”
NMS staff walked around the room selling $100 raffle tickets for a chance to win a top-of-the-line Seabob F5SR. Capt. Chris Walsh of M/Y Archimedes was in for five tickets, and he challenged Capt. Ted McCumber, commercial director for Feadship America, to do the same.
“I said, let’s make it seven,” Capt. McCumber recalled afterward. And Capt. Walsh did, as did two other captains in their group.
Then someone – not these captains – won, and offered the Seabob back to be auctioned. In the giving mood, Capt. McCumber said he helped bid the price up to $13,000 before the attendees gave up. So McCumber went up to the stage and said he would match it if Seabob would donate a second machine, worth about $17,500.
“In this situation, what are you going to do?” said Claus Gruner, CEO of Cayago Americas, which manufactures the Seabob. “Everybody is in this mood of giving to the foundation. It grew up to $13,000, and now there are two willing to donate. You simply have to do it.”
So now the amount raised reached $26,000.
“No, I didn’t need a Seabob, but I thought someone needed money so it was a nice thing to do,” Capt. McCumber said. His machine will likely find its way onto a Feadship in the future, he said.
But the magic didn’t stop there. As McCumber was making his pitch for a second machine, Nicky Mingledorff, communications director with M/V Pacific Hope, was texting her husband.
“We were raising money for breast cancer, it was this wonderful environment where people were trying to donate more, give more, all friends,” she recalled. “The auction gets up to $13,000, and another person is willing to match it. I was standing there, and Ken [Capt. Ken Bracewell] was standing next to me and I said to him, you know what, I think I can do this. I texted my husband: Are you OK with me making this donation?”
Mingledorff was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23. It is now in remission.
“These donations, these organizations truly, truly helped me,” she said. “They paid thousands for treatments for me to recover and prepare for my future life. And I love Dean and Mary [Dutoit, owners of NMS]. They have helped us so much with Pacific Hope.”
Then she got a text back from her husband: “Yup, let’s do it.”
So she stood up and matched the latest bid of $13,000 with a personal donation – not in exchange for a Seabob, just because.
“I really didn’t do much,” she said afterward. “I was just the third person who said something. We have the means, so I was happy to do anything to give back. … What really happened was the whole room came together. Can you imagine? It wasn’t that big a group of people. I just love these people.”
Combined with the raffle tickets sold, the total raised that evening was in excess of $40,000. Over the years, NMS has raised more than $330,000 for the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation through its annual poker run rides, FLIBS party and now dinner.
But 2019’s event was special.
“It was the most exciting 15 minutes of my life,” Dutoit said. “The place went nuts. It was the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.