Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Guys…Good Soles

Several hundred families lined up early on a Saturday morning to be outfitted in new shoes and clothing provided by the group.

In late October on a trip to East Cape, I headed down to the beach early one morning to photograph the boats departing for the day’s fishing from Hotel Palmas de Cortez. As I headed out the front gate, I noticed a large group of Mexican families lined up on the Driving Range in front of tables piled high with shoe boxes and t-shirts. Curiosity got the best of me. I parked and walked over to see what was going on.

Jack McCulloch, one of the sponsors McCulloch’s Wide Shoes, proceeded to explain what was happening.

He explained that the Fishers of Men had been holding their tournament in East Cape, Mexico, for several years when a hurricane devastated the area and left the people they had come to know homeless. With a desire to give back to the villagers and help them in some small way, Fishers of Men contacted Soles4Souls, a charity dedicated to donating shoes to the poor, to children, and to victims of disasters. The two groups joined forces and in 2006, the Fishers of Men turned their tournament into a fund raiser, raffling off donations from many fishing industry companies and using the money to pay the freight costs incurred for Soles4Souls to bring thousands of pairs of shoes across the border.

The next year Fishers of Men and Soles4Soles created a second tournament, named ‘Casting for Souls’, for the express purpose of bringing shoes and other donated clothing items to the needy villagers in the East Cape and surrounding areas.

This tournament is now held every October at Hotel Palmas de Cortez and is geared toward members of the shoe and fishing industries. The hotel’s owners, the Van Wormer family, are major sponsors of the tournament and work hard to make the tournament a success. After two days of amazing fishing, the event culminates in the attendees handing out their donations and seeing ‘up close and personal’ the joy of the recipients.

This year, Team Zappos won the 2nd Annual Casting for Souls Tournament with a 120 pound yellowfin tuna. Second place went to Team HiTec Shoes with a 51 pound yellowfin.

On the third day, tournament attendees handed out several thousand pairs of shoes in one day as well as more than 2,000 of the 5,000 special Guy Harvey t-shirts donated by Bill Shedd of Aftco. The remainder of shoes and t-shirts will be given to needy people by Soles4Souls in the secluded areas of the Sierra Nevadas during trips planned later this month.

Attendees this year included David Graber from Soles4Souls; Jack McCulloch from McCulloch’s Wide Shoes, Director of Fishers of Men; Kit McNear from Western Outdoor News; Bobby Van Wormer of Van Wormer Resorts; Bill Bonta, CEO of HiTec Boot Company; and Steve Gebhart of Zappos.Com.

Additional sponsors who made this year’s tournament possible include Albackore Sport Fishing Gear, Ande, Inc, Baja Fish Gear, Ballyhood Lures, Booya Clothing Co., Eagle Claw, Fisherman’s Access, Izorline, Bob Kotula, Pacific Coast Sportfishing Magazine, Pelagic, Inc., PLine, and David Holmes.

It is gratifying when you realize what can be accomplished when a group of “Good Guy’s” comes up with a “Great Idea” benefitting a small Baja Community.

Mom gratefully accepts a brand new pair of shoes for her young son.