The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 31 - May 5, 2010


Island, Florida wait as oil gushes into Gulf

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
Oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen
as a dark blue swirl advancing toward the Louisiana coast.

Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency in Manatee and Sarasota counties on Monday, as coastal residents anxiously waited, watched and prayed that oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon is somehow stopped.

The oil creeping toward Florida from a deadly April 20 accident at the BP oil facility in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana is not the start of National Travel and Tourism Week that Anna Maria Island tourism officials had hoped for.

Beaches are open and no impacts are expected before Wednesday, Manatee County spokesman Nick Azarra said.

But as BP attempts to get to the bottom of the oil leak, county, state and federal agencies are operating full bore, preparing for the potential devastation to wildlife, shoreline property and businesses.

With hurricane-like unpredictability, estimates of the quantity of oil pouring into the Gulf and its direction vary.

The latest estimates are that the well is pumping 250,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf every day, according to Bob Tollise, hazardous materials chief at the Manatee County Public Safety Department.

“That’s an Exxon Valdez,” he said, comparing the crisis to a Category 5 hurricane. “You’ve got a volcano underwater that’s spewing oil, and the leak isn’t stopped.”

In comparison, a one-time spill of oil from one of the three tankers that collided in Tampa Bay in August 1993 amounted to 330,000 gallons. Oil from that spill washed up on Pinellas County beaches for more than a year.

Save Our Seabirds Director Lee Fox was there, and afterwards literally wrote the book on rescuing wildlife from oil spills, the "Oiled Wildlife Preparedness Program.” At BP’s request, she was packed and ready to leave for the spill to coordinate the Oiled Wildlife Response Team as of press time. Donations of paper towels, electrical extension cords, Dawn liquid soap and linens are being accepted at Save Our Seabirds, 1700 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island.

Island residents began noticing a chemical odor that many mistook for paint shortly after the accident on April 20. While the odor has dissipated, air quality is being continuously monitored by state agencies.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has measured baseline levels of air quality and found no air quality issues due to the spill or the subsequent attempt to burn off some of the oil on the water’s surface.

No human health problems have been reported in Manatee County, Manatee Public Safety Capt. Larry Leinhauser said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, county governments, water management districts and several federal agencies are conducting pre-impact assessments of water, sediment, fish, shellfish and habitats along the coastline.

Mote Marine Laboratory has updated its Beach Conditions Report to include oil spill impacts on local beaches, which will be similar to the report’s red tide monitoring of dead fish, odor, respiratory irritation and water quality. The reports are online at or call 941-BEACHES.

Some Cortez commercial fishermen were off Panama City last week catching the last of the fish before a federal ban made fishing off limits. Back home on the docks, commercial fishermen are working to arrange to help deploy booms in the northern Gulf, said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co. Interested fishermen should phone BP at 425-745-8017.

Commercial fishermen in Louisiana already have filed a class action lawsuit against BP.

Mixed blessing?

The incident could almost be a blessing in disguise, Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said, coming days after the Manatee County Commission passed a resolution opposing oil drilling in both state and federal waters. The resolution was a response to a plan to allow drilling between three and 10 miles from the coast that was taken off the agenda in the 2010 Florida Legislative session that ended last Friday.

Rep. Dean Cannon has announced his intention to introduce a similar bill next year, when he is expected to serve as speaker of the house. Another oil drilling supporter, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, will serve as Senate president next year.

County commissioners also stated their opposition to President Barack Obama’s plan to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf, 125 miles from Florida’s west coast, which he has placed on temporary hold. Current regulations prohibit drilling within 230 miles of Tampa Bay, an area used for military training exercises.

“This event certainly would give a person that was favoring Florida offshore oil development a reason for having second thoughts,” said John Stevely, an organizer of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival and a Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, adding that the agency is prepared to offer assistance if the oil devastates Florida shores.

Local tourism leaders, including Manatee County Tourist Development Council members and Island businessmen David Teitelbaum and Ed Chiles, have warned of dire consequences to the local economy if drilling is allowed.

“The recent oil rig explosion is a tragedy in terms of both the loss of human life and to the threat to our environment, and is precisely the reason our elected officials should take a cautious and measured approach when it comes to the issue of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico,” the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association wrote in a press release.

For updates, visit

Stoltzfus suggests Anna Maria toll booth

ANNA MARIA — Putting a tollbooth at the entrance to the city would solve any budget shortfalls caused by falling property tax revenues, says Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

He proposed the idea at a May 3 city commission workshop.

Stoltzfus suggested that since the city pier is the number one tourist attraction in Manatee County, each of the estimated 300,000 visitors who visit the city each year should be charged as they enter the city limits.

“If we charge each of them one dollar, we’d raise $300,000,” Stoltzfus said. “Budget shortfall solved. You do the math.”

Stoltzfus noted that it’s the roughly 1,362 registered voters who pay for the services that out-of-town visitors use while in Anna Maria. He said city residents could get a pass, so they wouldn’t have to pay to come into the city.

He also proposed charging people who come to the city frequently, such as wait staff at places like the Sandbar, could pay an annual fee of $50.

“That wouldn’t be too much,” he said. “They’d easily make that up in tips. That’s only about a dollar a day.”

He added that the worst that could happen would be that there would be a decrease in visitors.

“And that wouldn’t be a bad thing,” he said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland offered some support for Stoltzfus’ proposal.

“If we could get a dollar a day out of them, then that’s a lot of revenue,” he said.

Both commissioners expressed some concerns about using parking meters for revenue instead of a tollbooth, since visitors might just flow over into residential neighborhoods where they could park free rather than put a quarter in the meters.

Stoltzfus said he was more interested in mitigating the budget woes facing the city by finding additional revenue sources rather than by cutting expenses such as staff salaries.

A similar resident-only proposal was suggested by then-Commissioner Duke Miller when the parking issue was a hot topic in town several years ago.

The idea was abandoned and an alternate side of the street-parking plan was implemented when it was discovered that the city needed to provide adequate visitor parking to qualify for beach renourishment funding.

Mayor Fran Barford said she’d be interested in taking a look at allowing cell towers as a revenue source.

“We did that in Temple Terrace,” said Barford, who was a mayor in that city as well as in Anna Maria. “We charged a fee for them to put the tower up, and they paid an annual fee to lease the land.”

Barfield said she wasn’t thinking of a tower that would look like the one in Holmes Beach.

“They have a lot of different designs now that don’t even look like cell towers,” she said.

The commission is looking at a significant reduction in ad valorem tax revenues, since property appraisals are falling, and property taxes make up about 57 percent of the city’s revenues.

This was just a preliminary work session on the budget. The revenue sources haven’t even been received as yet.

More work sessions on the budget lie ahead for the city.

Commission Chair John Quam was silent on the subject of a tollbooth. He did note that the city paid “a lot of money to a consultant to deal with the cell tower issue.”

Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Chuck Webb were absent.

AMI loses 'Miss Duffy'

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
Pat at the bar of the original Duffy's.

HOLMES BEACH – Pat Geyer, the Island businesswoman who raised five daughters while making a living selling hamburgers and cold beer and served more than 20 years in the city government, has died at the age of 79.

Geyer passed away around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 1, after suffering a heart attack while in the hospital. The family will receive friends on Wednesday, May 5, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Shannon Funeral Home Westview Chapel, 5610 Manatee Ave. W. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, May 6, at 10 a.m., at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, with interment to follow at Sarasota National Cemetery.

Geyer and her late husband, Ed, who died last year, moved to the Island in 1961 and leased Duffy’s Tavern in 1971. She was elected to the city council (now the city commission) in 1978 and was elected mayor of Holmes Beach in 1990. She served four years as mayor and then as a commissioner for four of the following 15 years. She barely lost an election bid for city commission last year.

“I’ve known her since I first moved here when I was 14,” said former mayor and current Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “I’ve been going to Duffy’s all my life and I remember bringing my daughter, Janae, there in her little car seat.”

Whitmore said Geyer was her mentor and more.

“She was like a mother to me,” Whitmore said. “When I became mayor, I sought her approval.”

For years, the topics of discussion in the little restaurant southeast of Manatee County Beach ranged from NASCAR to city politics. Customers would bring in racing memorabilia, hubcaps, license plates and funny signs to hang on the walls.

Current Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger called Geyer a very unique person whom he first met at Duffy’s before he considered running for office.

“I talked with her about running for mayor while she was mayor,” Bohnenberger said. “She had already announced that she was not going to run for mayor again and she encouraged me to run.”

Later, Bohnenberger said the situation changed.

“I remember sitting with her in church one day and she asked me if it would be alright if she ran for city commissioner,” Bohnenberger said. “I was running for mayor again, and I told her I would support her.”

Bohnenberger said that Geyer’s sense of history and her demeanor is one reason the city has “progressed on an even keel.” He recalled that the Florida League of Cities honored Geyer last year for her 20 years of service to her city.

The Geyers had to look for a new location for Duffy’s Tavern in 2002 when the owners of the land in its original location ended the lease and moved to Manatee County to run Skinny’s Place out of the original Duffy’s location. After a concerted search, they found an old auto repair garage and converted it into a larger restaurant with more seats and a larger bar.

In 1957, Claude Whiteman, who leased Duffy’s from the original owners, the Freeman family, gave the restaurant its name. He later leased the restaurant to the Geyers.

Ed was in the air conditioning business and Pat wanted something for her daughters – Patti, Pam, Peggi, Penni and Polli – to do. They all worked at the restaurant at one time or another and three of them – Pam Geyer, Peggi Davenport and Polli Stroup – still do.

“We learned to make our sandwiches, then we cleaned tables and did dishes, and then, when we were old enough, we learned to cook,” Polli said in an April 2002 interview. “I didn’t get a real job until I graduated from high school in 1989.”

Duffy’s grew in stature as tourism and the Island’s growth brought in new people. Pat came up with the “Home of world famous burgers and the coldest beer this side of heaven.” The restaurant was written up in Travel and Leisure World, the Chicago Times, the Pittsburgh Gazette, USA Today and Time Magazine. In a USA Today article about best burgers, Duffy’s was the only Florida restaurant named.

“I remember that gleam in Pat’s eyes the last time I saw her,” Whitmore said. “I was with Janae, who was pregnant, and Pat was so excited for her.”

“She was unique in every way,” Bohnenberger recalled. “She was a good, dear friend.”

Memories of 'Snooks' shared
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

In his later years, Snooks still
attended Snooks Adams Kids Day
as often as he could.

HOLMES BEACH – W.H. “Snooks” Adams, Holmes Beach’s first police chief, died Monday, April 26, at the age of 91.

“He was my best friend for 40 years,“ John Rudacille said. “He taught me about living in Florida – boating, fishing, crabbing, clamming, how to catch and fry mullet. He was real character. I’m really going to miss him.”

Adams, who was born and grew up in Cortez, got his nickname from the 1920s radio character, Baby Snooks. In a newspaper article several years ago, he said Baby Snooks “screamed and hollered and raised hell. When I grew up, I was still doing that stuff so they kept the name but took the ‘Baby’ off.”

The family is distinguished by the fact that all six Adams brothers served in the armed forces at the same time during World War II. In 1988, a tribute to the family for this accomplishment was entered into the Congressional record by then Sen. Lawton Chiles.

Adams ran a seawall construction business and was a member of the Bradenton Beach Police Auxiliary. When the city’s lone policeman was injured in the 1950s, Sheriff Roy Baden deputized him and he served as both deputy and police chief.

“People were coming from east Bradenton and causing trouble on Bridge Street,” Adams wrote in an account at the Island Historical Museum. “Things got rough on the Island. You couldn’t park a car – bottles through windshields, slit your tires.

“Roy Baden, sheriff, asked me to become a deputy and get this mess straightened out. I don’t know why I let him talk me into it. But I did if I could pick two people to work with me – Rusty Taylor, of Cortez, and Bud Hammond, of the Bradenton Police Department. We cleaned it up.”

In 1954 he started what has become one of the Island’s most cherished traditions – Snooks Adams Kids Day. At first, it was a few boys and some donations to buy hog dogs, buns and sodas on an outing to Coquina Beach. Then it grew to include girls and moved to Manatee Beach. It grew larger and moved to Bayfront Park.

West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price was one of those kids and he remembered, “When I was 6 or 7 years old, I remember going to Bayfront Park for Snooks Adams Kids Day. We always looked forward to that because we could eat as many hot dogs and drink as many cokes as we wanted.”

The AMI Privateers took over the event in 1980, and “Big John” Swager recalled, “We were able to keep it going for the kids. We’ve seen thousands of kids through the years. It really made us feel good when he came, and the kids always felt comfortable with him.

“I knew him for 24 years, and there’s only a few people I looked up to like that. We’re losing a good friend, a true Islander. His memory will live a long time because of the kids he touched.”

In 1963, the Island newspaper announced, “At its meeting Tuesday, the Holmes Beach Board of Aldermen announced the appointment of W.H. Snooks Adams as the city’s police officer.” Adams began building a department and served as the city’s police chief until his retirement in 1978.

Police Chief Jay Romine noted, “He came from a different era in law enforcement, but he could still command respect. He used to come by and see me and it was nice to be able to sit down and talk to him.

“We’ve lost a legend. Even though you knew it was coming, it doesn’t help when you get that phone call.”

Adams also was known for keeping a watchful eye on Island youths, and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore was one of them.

“He helped me out a lot when I was young,” she said. “He knew I was alone and he watched over me.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, a neighbor of Adams, recalled tipping a few at the Sandbar with Snooks and the Sons of the Beach, a loosely organized social club.

“We had a good relationship,” Bohnenberger said. “He had a good sense of humor. He was quite a guy, especially with his work with kids. You hate to see people like that go because they are a link to our past.”

Adams is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; a daughter, Georgia Lee Jones, of Bradenton; a son, Randy, of Tallahassee; a sister, Mabel Dawn Hipp, of Sarasota; three brothers, C.D., of Sebastian; Cleveland “Kewpie,” of California, and Clayton “Jap,” of Bradenton; five grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

A service was held Saturday at CrossPointe Fellowship. In lieu of flowers, the family recommends donations to the AMI Privateer's for Snooks Adams Kids Day or CrossPointe Fellowship.

Quam vision engages commission, P&Z

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners and members of the P&Z board voted unanimously last week to proceed with a compromise master-parking plan for Pine Avenue.

“This master plan takes care of our safety concerns, and it works for the district as a whole,” Commission Chair John Quam said at a joint meeting April 29. “Please keep an open mind about this.”

The streetscape idea considers the length of Pine Avenue. It provides parallel parking along the street, with a five-foot wide sidewalk that would be closer to the buildings and away from the street and parking.

The commission and the P&Z board have been engaged in heated discussions about the parking in the city’s residential/office/retail district with arguments and some name-calling.

“I saw this kind of thing in West Palm when I was visiting my son,” Quam said. “It works well there, and I think it would work well for us. West Palm is much bigger, of course, but they have one main street in their business district just like we do.”

Quam said he came back from the visit and approached Gene Aubry, a nationally recognized architect. Aubry had drawn an earlier plan that drew objections from Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus and his supporters.

The earlier plan sank after an onslaught of criticism about wandering sidewalks and the use of city rights of way for business parking from some factions in the sharply divided community.

The Quam/Aubry master plan has 197 parking spaces, which is more than at the present time. It also places back-in angled parking around the corners on the side streets.

“You’d have 6-foot wide continuous sidewalks, which is what the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) mandates,” Aubry said. “It’s straight as an arrow and wide enough for pedestrians, bicycles, Segways and anything else you can think of.”

Parking spaces in the proposed plan would be 10 feet wide and 25 feet long.

“That’s far larger than what’s proposed now, so people could practically just pull into the spaces and then pull out,” Aubry said.

There were some questions and comments about the plan from residents in attendance about how trash pickup would work and other issues, but overall, there was very little of the scathing criticism that has become common in the city.

Since last November’s election, commissioners have been on the receiving end of angry phone calls from residents when they vote in favor of what some are calling pro-development ideas.

Many residents report that longtime friends and neighbors won’t speak to them.

During the days following the acceptance of last week’s alternative plan, commissioners reported receiving numerous angry calls.

“But this is what’s good for the community,” Quam said. “It’s not about developers versus residents. It’s about what’s good for the community.”

When Quam called for a show of hands from the members of the P&Z board, only Frank Pytel was opposed to moving forward with the concept.

The city commission was also in favor of the master plan, with only Harry Stoltzfus opposed.

A drawing of the overall plan is on the wall in the commission chambers at city hall. There will be further discussions and fine-tuning for the plan to move forward.

The next discussion will take place on Thursday, May 13 at 6 p.m.

Recall petition signatures top 200

More than 200 registered voters in Anna Maria have signed a petition to recall City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

As of May 3, 206 people had signed the document, which is being checked against a current list of registered voters. The 206 signatures are what the recall committee calls “good,” meaning that they check out against the listing from the Manatee County Supervisor of Election’s office.

The petition began circulating on April 22. Committee members have been going door-to-door, and they spent a day outside the post office last week.

Stoltzfus has come under fire as a result of some e-mails that he was forced to release due to a public records request. In those e-mails, he offered to help fund a lawsuit against the city if his name could be kept out of it, and he submitted comments adverse to the city to the Florida Department of Community Affairs in another legal action against the city.

The petition states that Stoltzfus conspired with others to deceive the citizens and bring financial harm to the city by encouraging potentially harmful and expensive legal action against the city while hiding his own involvement.

This is the first round of the drive to recall the commissioner. According to the rules, to move on to the next step, the petition has to be signed by 137 registered voters. That represents 10 percent of Anna Maria’s 1,368 voters.

The petition can’t be submitted to the city clerk until May 12, which is the day Stoltzfus will have served one quarter of his two-year term.

Then the Supervisor of Elections has 60 days to verify that all the signatures are by registered voters.

At that point, if enough signatures are verified, Stoltzfus will have five days to submit a 200-word statement in his own defense.

The committee then has another 60 days to get 15 percent (or 205) signatures of registered voters.

If those signatures check out, a recall election would be set “no sooner than 30 days after a five-day notification period and no later than 60 days,” according to the state statute.

People who sign the petition automatically become members of the recall committee. There have been threats that anyone who signs the petition will be subject to having to turn over all their e-mail correspondence, but the Florida Attorney General’s office says that threat is not true.

The members of the committee are not appointed or elected and they do not deal with city business per se, so they aren’t subject to the public records laws.

Recall elections are specifically allowed in the city charter, which refers to the state statute on recall elections.

The committee will be collecting signatures again this coming Saturday at 305 Pine Avenue between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

PAR attorney: City not liable for Stoltzfus legal fees

ANNA MARIA — With the harshest criticism to date, Pine Avenue Restoration's attorney says the city will not be liable for Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ legal expenses.

Stoltzfus’ attorney, Richard Harrison, had written a letter to the Anna Maria commissioners advising them that any legal or other expenses incurred by his client would have to be paid by the city.

Harrison, in an April 26 letter, cited the case of Thornber vs. City of Ft. Walton Beach, in which a there was a court ruling that a city commissioner later cleared of any wrongdoing was entitled to be reimbursed by the city for his legal expenses.

“Mr. Harrison’s letter has one significant omission,” Pine Avenue Restoration Attorney Valerie Fernandez wrote. “It presumes Commissioner Stoltzfus will be cleared of any wrongdoing and that the recall petition will be unsuccessful.

“Commissioner Stoltzfus admitted deleting public records. More important, the city clerk unequivocally testified last week that Commissioner Stoltzfus did not follow the clear instructions and training he received through last November to forward e-mails from his private account to his city account.

“The sheer volume and nature of the e-mails suggests that this was not unintentional.”

Fernandez went on to say, “At a minimum, we believe that Stoltzfus’ actions are evidence of a complete lack of transparency … by a public official.

“Frankly, we don’t need an expert to tell us that it’s contrary to the interests of the tax payers to secretly finance lawsuits filed against taxpayers and use conduits to bypass the Sunshine Law.”

Webb asks commission to reconsider drilling resolution

ANNA MARIA — With the massive amounts of oil now coming ashore in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Commissioner Chuck Webb is asking his city to reconsider a decision to shun the county’s request that area cities sign on to a resolution opposing near-shore drilling in the Gulf.

The commission voted 3-2 against signing the resolution. Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick, Dale Woodland and Harry Stoltzfus were opposed to the city signing the petition.

Webb and Commissioner John Quam wanted the city to sign on in support of the county resolution.

Woodland argued that the country needs every drop of oil it can get, since most of the oil producing nations “are our enemies.”

He said that there was no damage to oilrigs when Hurricanes Rita and Katrina roared up the Gulf as Category 5 storms.

Webb sent a memo and a report from the U.S. Department of the Interior to commissioners asking for the reconsideration.

“The prior commission vote was based on a statement that, at least, implied that there was no damage,” Webb said. “This report shows significant damage.”

The report indicated that during the year when those storms crossed the Gulf, at least 447 pipelines under the water were damaged, and 113 platforms were damaged, if not destroyed.

The report also stated that there were six hurricane-related oil/condensate/chemical spills in federal offshore waters of 1,000 barrels or greater. The report cites a total of 146 spills.

No shoreline or wildlife impacts were reported at that time.

“The BP incident, which is still unfolding, and this report support my opposition to oil drilling and production off our coast and my vote to support the resolution,” Webb concluded.

It will be up to Quam whether or not the resolution will be brought forward again. As chairman of the commission, he has the authority to set the agenda for each meeting.

City officials OK beach concession plans

HOLMES BEACH – Mark Enoch, of United Park Services, said the company plans to continue rentals of umbrellas and chairs at Manatee Public Beach, but will not rent bicycles and kayaks.

A county committee recently recommended UPS to provide concessions at both Manatee and Coquina public beaches. It’s original proposal included bicycle and ocean kayaks rentals, as requested by the county.

Enoch and UPS President Alan Kahana met with the Police Chief Jay Romine last week.

“He had issues with safety with the bicycles, and we felt kayaks were not feasible in the swimming area,” Enoch explained. “We do think the umbrellas and chairs are important to have, especially for the European tourists, who expect it.”

“We went over their preliminary plans and I had concerns about bicycles rentals,” Romine concurred. “With the logistics of the parking lot and the trolleys, pedestrians and vehicles, if you add bicycles, the risk goes up. They said, ‘Anything you don’t want us to do, we won’t do.’”

Romine said he did not recommend scooters either because they are similar to golf carts and the city is still attempting to get permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to allow golf carts to cross SR 789.

“There’s a problem getting from A– anywhere you can rent one – to B – anywhere else in the city,” he noted.

The company’s other plans for the beach include a mural, new awnings, white trim, the addition of an ice cream window and a beverage hut and a make over of the dining area with new paint, foliage, new furniture and historic photos. They propose a similar menu with the addition of tropical fare, drinks and ice cream flavors.

“They said they are not going to do any more than is there now,” Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes said. “We have no problem with the beverage hut, the new roof on the pancake hut or fixing up the concession building. They said if they decide to do any more, they would come to us first.”

Both Romine and Duennes said Enoch and Kahana were easy to work with, accommodating and open to their suggestions.

The beach concession contract will come before the county commisson for approval on Tuesday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m.

Relay for Life offers hope
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

About 250 people kicked off the Fifth Annual Anna Maria Island
Relay for Life on Saturday afternoon at Coquina Beach, raising
$25,000 for cancer research, education and support programs.

BRADENTON BEACH - The Fifth Annual Anna Maria Island Relay for Life last weekend at Coquina Beach offered hope to those battling cancer and a tribute to those who lost their lives to the disease.

Participants celebrated the life of “Turtle Tom” Van Ness, the namesake for The Anna Maria Island Sun’s Turtle Tom’s Timely Tips, who lost his battle with cancer last month. A regular participant in past Relays for Life, Van Ness was among those memorialized in the luminaria ceremony on Saturday, which features lighted candles placed around the relay track.

Kim Levine, wearing a purple relay T-shirt, said she missed last years’ event because her grandmother, Mildred Johnston, had just died of lung and breast cancer.

“I’m walking for her,” she said.

The kickoff lap on Saturday featured three sisters, all cancer survivors, who carried a banner leading other cancer survivors and their families, friends and supporters around the track.

The teams took turns walking all night to symbolize continuous support for cancer patients; the event lasts overnight to graphically represent the darkness of a cancer diagnosis followed by the dawn of hope. Live music, games and theme laps kept up team spirit.

About 250 people in 22 teams raised $25,000 for research, education and support programs of the American Cancer Society, event coordinator and cancer survivor Laura McAdams said.

Last year’s event raised $38,000, with half staying in Manatee County.

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