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Events and Charity: Hand in hand

Smiles by the handful as teams competed but also gave back as $38,000 is raised for Cabo charity, with those funds to be matched by the medical community for children’s facial surgeries in Cabo clinics held two times a year

WON Staff Writer

“Fish hard, party harder!” has been the cornerstone of the Cabo Tuna Jackpot for 17 years. However, this year, after the devastation from Hurricane Odile, the need for a stronger charity commitment arose to help a struggling Los Cabos community.

THE START OF THE TOURNAMENT was exciting no matter what your vantage point. PHOTOS BY GARY GRAHAM AND DANNY MATTHEWS

So, tournament officials decided to build on the success of the effort which had raised a remarkable sum of money on behalf of the Los Cabos community following the destructive storm. This year, the “Project Smiles of Cabo” was selected by tourney director Pat McDonell.

“The more I looked into it, and then wrote a story about the work the foundation does, the more I knew this was the charity I wanted the funds directed to,” said McDonell.“

As McDonell explained at the Yo-Zuri Welcome Party the first day and throughout the events activities, all dollars raised in various efforts during the four day tourney would go directly to purchase equipment and supplies needed during the two one-week surgical clinics conducted annually by U.S. doctor and nurse volunteers in conjunction with the local Rotarians and the Smiles International Foundation. The amount raised was $38,000.

BRAD STEVENSON of team Maybe Manana and Dick Landfield of Reel Quest at the microphone after their winning bid for the Florida trip.

At the awards dinner on Saturday night, Smiles Philanthropy Development Director and RN, Patricia Hunter explained that the twice-a-year clinics were held on the fourth Monday of every April and October. Volunteer doctors and nurses fly to Cabo San Lucas; leading these annual efforts in Cabo and many other areas in Mexico and other countries is Dr. Jeffrey Moses and his wife, Maribel, of Encinitas, Calif.

Screenings to determine which children are most in need of the crucial services are initially held on the second floor of the Puerto Paraiso Mall – the first step toward a new life. These services are for underprivileged children in need of charitable surgical care who are often affected with a cleft palate or other facial deformity, without which they would have an uncertain future.

After the screenings, operations are performed on a few cases that same afternoon and then throughout the week daily from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Hospital Especialidades, owned by Rotarian Dr. Alejandro Avalos who donates its use during the twice-a-year visits. During the week, they will have a demanding week-long schedule of operations on young children to repair facial deformities which they will reconstruct under pediatric specialty general anesthesia on 25 to 30 children.

SMILES INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION'S Patricia Hunter, RN Philanthropy Development Director explained the clinics for operations in Cabo are held twice a year on the fourth Mondays of every April and October.

Last year, the relative value of surgical procedures combined with cost for facility, anesthesiology, intensive care nursing and supplies if done in the USA would have totaled over $380,000; this was accomplished with around $7,000 worth of sterile supplies actually purchased by the Foundation due to so many "in-kind" donated efforts. More information can be found at

The Wednesday afternoon tournament check-in saw many announcements by director and emcee McDonell as he explained the various charity efforts and other facets of the tourney as teams signed in in front of the host hotel, the Tesoro. The check-in featured Minerva's custom clothing donated with proceeds going to “Smiles.” Dave and Amy Bulthuis along with their son, Chet, of Costa Sunglasses, once again pledged all of their receipts of various clothing to the cause. They shipped several boxes of the items, and the donation ended up being close to $4,000.

Throughout the afternoon there were Grand Raffle ticket sales at $5 ticket (or 5 tickets for $20) to be drawn during the event for a remarkable list of prizes donated by sponsors and friends being sold by Baja Cantina girls as well as at many of the sponsor booths to teams as they went from booth to booth to receive gift packs of the various sponsor’s products. Every dollar went to Smiles.

A FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE at the Yamaha Awards dinner culminated in a $38,000 donation to Smiles.

Later that evening, at the Yo-Zuri Party, the first of many raffles of the tournament was held. Cousin Custom Rods, Okuma Reels, Yo-Zuri lures, Gift Certificates, Seaguar Leader Packs and many other items were handed out to the lucky two-dozen ticket holders.

On Friday morning, more than 100 guests, staff and sponsors dragged themselves out of bed early enough to be in line for the Costa Charity Charter aboard the Cabo Escape, the official start boat, at 6 a.m. The minimum donation of $20 per person went to “Smile” since Juan at "Cabo Escape” had graciously donated the catering of the party as well as the cost of the charter, which meant every dollar of the $20 for the ticket to get on the boat went to Smiles, about $3,000. Dave and Amy Bulthuis and son Chet greeted attendees on behalf of Costa sunglasses.

The boat hadn't pulled away from the dock before some eager-beaver boats came alongside to "Show us their Costas" as the music boomed and the "pink team" waiters began offering mimosas to everyone. The Cabo Escape, again the official start boat of the tourney, was draped with Costa and "Show me your number" signs as well as Yamaha and other sponsors, making it easy for teams on boats to spot.

WINNING the Grand Raffle Drawing for charity was Team 73’s Peter Godler, Vincenzo Tricoci, Steve Hachey and Pawel Ziajski. They received Cousins rods, Okuma Makaira reels, Plano tackle boxes, Yo-Zuri Lure sets, Seaguar Threadlock super braid, Costa sunglasses, (6 pair), AFW Hi-Seas wire and terminal tackle assortments and a four hotel stays for two people each at Tesoro Hotel for next year's tournament.

Heading out to the start line, the team boats swarmed about the luxury party catamaran Cabo Escape as each team tried to outdo their predecessor with raucous behavior, flashing their numbers and showing their "Costas," much to the delight of everyone on board.

As each person “ooohed” and “aaahed,” over the stunning sunrise, they sampled a delicious breakfast buffet – a special treat for many on the boat who normally wouldn’t dream of being up that early. Once again, boats maneuvered for the best position on the start line as the final seconds were counted down … 5- 4-3-2-1and POP!!! Boats scrambled for a right-of-way through the crowd.

The flare also signaled the metamorphosis of Cabo Escape from official start boat to official party boat as the dance music blared from the huge speakers and the crew slid tables off the dance floor on the top deck. And the Cabo Escape’s emcee, Bryan, began his patter encouraging the dancers who crowded the makeshift dance floor as Costa hats were passed around.

Next stop was in front of famed rock of Los Arcos for the obligatory “group shot” including many of the crew along with staff. The bright Baja sun glinted off the rocks as photos were taken.

SPONSORS and staff assemble on stage with this year’s Florida trip auction winners, and last year’s auction winners Team Speedwell.

Dave Bulthuis of Costa and Chuck Buhagiar of Western Outdoor News joined forces and raffled off more Costas to guests who had received raffle tickets as they boarded, followed by a pole dancing demonstration by one of the "pink team" members plus another group shot of all of the "pink team" with Dave and Chuck. Then more mimosas and that final dance of the party as the boat made its way back to the IGY Marina, a longtime sponsor of the event. Judging by the smiles and laughter as the group disembarked, the "Costa Party" was a memorable affair and a must-attend for the landlubbers.

“Music knockin' till the morning light – ‘cause we like to party!” seemed like the appropriate anthem for this "Fish hard, Party harder” group as they arrived for yet another one at the Friday Night Fiestas held next to the API office at the northwest corner of the IGY Marina.

After two days of slower-than-expected fishing, most of the teams were ready to join in the fun without having to worry about getting up early Saturday morning … unless they felt like it.

Festive, multi-colored flags surrounded the area, fluttering in the gentle breeze as tournament teams, guests, staff and dignitaries began arriving. The evening was perfect and the crowd was ready to party!

SILENT AUCTION items by Jon Petty Goldsmith, Mold Craft lures, Cousins rods, Okuma, Prada, Hi-Seas, Reactor, Kingfisher Lodge, Pisces and longtime CTJ angler John Englehardt added to the total for Smiles.

Solomon’s Landing Restaurant staff prepared and served the delicious meal. The tournament staff fanned out to distribute Costa promotional items to each attendee.

After dinner, the emcee, Pat McDonell, tournament director and editor of Western Outdoor News, drew eight raffle tickets. As the winners made their way to the stage, a couple who were expert salsa instructors, Ulises Aznar and Tania Palma, joined McDonell on the stage to teach the eight lucky winners how to salsa dance in order to compete in the contest following the drawing. It was too tough to pick a winner, and Dave Bultheis decided to present all eight with Costa sunglasses of their choice.

A robust slide show prepared by Danny Matthews and featuring candid photos taken during the event followed. And the evening concluded with McDonell, with staff member, Carla Packard's assistance, raffling off all the items donated by the generous sponsors – beginning with Cousins custom Tuna Jackpot Rods, Mold Craft Gift Packs, Baja Fish Gear $50 Gift Certificates, Seaguar pink flouro packs and Threadlock spectra, Hi-Seas Rigging Kits, Eat Me Lure packs, several Okuma reels, Baja Fish Gear $50 gift cards, Terrafin memberships plus many more items.

JACKPOT Director Pat McDonell selected Smiles as the designated charity for the tourney.

Finally, the last raffle item number was called and McDonell bid teams their Friday night farewell and said the Yamaha Awards Banquet would begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the same venue the next night before bidding the crowd a good evening.

Although the Yamaha Awards banquet on Saturday is designed to distribute serious money, there are always some party aspects. First, there was the Silent Auction where proceeds were dedicated to this year’s charity. There were many generous donors to the auction.

Charity Silent Auction

#1 Andros reel, Moldcraft Lures, Rigging $375
#2 Jon Petty Necklace Baja Gift Certificate $750
#3 Reactor Watch $700
#4 Kingfisher Charter $2,100
#5 Jon Petty Pendant and Prada bag $950
#6 Pisces lure bag John Engelhardt 1/2-ounce gold Liberty coin $670

There were various other contests.

-- Yamaha Guess the Weight of the winning fish in the tournament: Three anglers picked 2016 pounds. Luis Liera from Team #139; Rick Laiwa, Team #86; Jorge Miguel Escamilla, Team #136. The winner was Jorge Miguel Escamilla, Team #136 from Vera Cruz, for the Sitka, Alaska Kingfisher Lodge Trip for two valued at $3,390. The other two prize winners received a pair of Costa Sunglasses.

-- Best Dressed: Teams #8, #10 and #7 were awarded four of the eight certificates to split among themselves for all meals during the 2016 tournament at Baja Cantina. Victor Locklin's team received the remaining four certificates.

DAVE AND AMY BULTHEIS again sold boxes of donated Costa items at whatever prices the market would bear during check-in, and they raised more than $3,000 for Smiles. Dave eventually spearheaded the Florida trip that involved many of the event’s sponsors, the trip garnering a bid of $21,000.

-- Show us your Costas was hotly contested this year," Bulthuis noted, as he named what he called the “slam dunk” winner, Team Jen Wren, demonstrating that you could spell TACOS from the letters in COSTA. When Bulthuis arrived on Sunday, a restaurant on the Marina already had a “Bucky loves Costas" poster displayed on the Malecon, winning them the Second Place award of two pair of Costa sunglasses.

-- Gray Taxidermy, providing taxidermy services to the local, truly-professional charter fleet for the past 30 years in Los Cabos, represented by Bill Dobbelear and Ashlee Fuller, raffled off $5,000 worth of gift certificates at the awards dinner.

To donate to Smiles, go to

The biggest fund raiser of the tourney was an effort by several sponsors that culminated in a live auction. The same sort of Florida trip was created last year to help repair fishermen’s homes in Cabo after Hurricane Odile roared through six weeks before the tourney. It garnered a $17,000 bid by Team Speedwell which won some money in 2014 and the foursome parlayed those winnings into a dream trip. They wewre called on stage before the live auction to explain how much fun the trip was, combining fishing and lodging, flight, mounds of free gear and tours of Costa, Yo-Zuri and Gray Taxidermy facilities in Florida.

“The live auction item was dubbed “What Happens in Florida stays in Florida,” was created on the fly by attending sponsors and some who were on speed dial during the auction and more items were added by Costa, WON, Yo-Zuri, Team Speedwell, Mustad, Gray's Taxidermy, Picante, Okuma and Seaguar. This entire package was donated by the sponsors and the $21,000 winning bid by Dick Landfield of 2014 champs Reel Quest and Brad Stevenson who captained this year’s biggest money winners on the Maybe Manana. Tbe two men combined for the winning bid, which when added to the $17,000 raised during the event in various other efforts ended up pushing the Smiles Donation Total to a whopping for a total of $38,000. That amount, Smiles’ Patricia Hunter explained, will be matched by pharmaceutical companies. Each $1000 raised will pay for four facial-deformity surgeries for disadvantaged children in Cabo.

Here is what was created, sponsor by sponsor:

COSTA — Airfare to Orlando, Factory Tour, Mosquito Lagoon trip, free sunglasses for each, hotel and dinner.

WON — Free entry in next year’s event.

YO-ZURI - $1,000 prize pack for each participant, Fishing trip with TV and radio host/guide Mike Holliday, rooms for one night in Manatee, Dinner.

TEAM SPEEDWELL — Kicked in $1,000 in alcohol to make sure the new crew going were not worried about bar tabs.

MUSTAD — Mustad Boat Bag for each, Mustad Shirts for each and $500 in Hooks.

MOLDCRAFT--$500 prize pack each from Frank and Karen Johnson, president of Mold Craft.

GRAY TAXIDERMY — Free mount each participant and swordfishing trip with Bill Dobbelear, hotel and dinner.

PICANTE - Sportfishing—Fishing trip in Cabo for one day, from Picante Sportfishing.

OKUMA — 4 Makaira Reels and 4 Water Wolf Cameras

SEAGUAR — Pink fluoro packs (pink/clear)

PISCES — $1,400 credit on any charter.

The successful bidders Dick Landfield and Brad Stevenson were ready to go on the trip before the awards dinner even ended.

“We could not be happier to be the winner of the trip,” said Maybe Manana team captain Brad Stevenson, “But more importantly it was being able to give back to the great Smiles International Foundation. It was amazing to see the video and pictures being shown during the presentation. As the auction started Dick leaned over to me and said ‘Are you in?’ I have to tell you it was the easiest ‘YES’ I have ever said. It is amazing the work that they do for these young kids. So, thank you for picking such a great organization and for allowing us to win it!”

Stevenson added, “As it relates to all the great sponsors of the Florida trip, just one word, WOW, each and every one of them went beyond their call of duty and every minute they were upping their part to this great cause, even some of the sponsors who were not in attendance like Steve Tagami from Mustad and Steve Miller from AFW! You don't see support like that very often. Hats off to all the sponsors and this great industry!”

Note: A feature on last year’s trip, as well as a story on can be found on the official Cabo Tuna jackpot Website, To donate to Smiles, go to