Just a year removed from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the entire franchise, the Miami Dolphins held their 20th annual Fins Weekend on May 20th and May 21st to raise money for City Year Miami, marking the second year that this nonprofit organization has benefited from the franchise's efforts.
"We have a transformational partnership with the Dolphins," said Keith Fletcher, the Executive Director and Vice President at City Year Miami. "It's a four year, million dollar commitment that supports the academic and social success of some of the most at-risk students in Miami Dade County. We're all in with the Fins for this weekend, everything from the welcome party to the incredible fishing tournament, the incredible golfing tournament. I think this is the weekend where you'll see players, coaches, executives go all in to raise money for education and City Year is right with them."
The weekend officially began early Friday morning with the golf tournament, where players, coaches and executives all met up to play golf at Crandon Golf in Key Biscayne. A sold out field of over 36 foursomes went out and got to play with current players, alumni and of course members of the coaching staff and front office executives, including Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum.
"(Owner) Steve Ross talks about it all the time, for all of us who work in the league, we also have a big responsibility to give back and this is just another example of it." Tannenbaum said. "Anything that helps with mentoring and helping youth to develop so they can achieve what they want in life is so meaningful, and we're really proud to be a part of so many people that are out here today, so it should be a great event and hopefully I don't embarrass myself on the golf course."
Even the team's new rookies got in on the action, as they participated in their own putting challenge before the official golf tournament took place.
Lee Carvallo was nowhere to be found at this putting challenge.
Nat Moore had the honor of doing the introductions before the beginning of the golf tournament, but when called upon, the rookies were mysteriously absent. Moore called on head coach Adam Gase to take the microphone and in came the rookies before Gase even had to say a word.
Looks like Gase already has control of the locker room.
First place went to the team of City National, with Jorge Martinez, John Costa, Wade Helms and Miami Dolphins alumnus Lousaka Polite. The play was followed by an Awards & Luncheon presented by Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.
Next on the block was the Hook and Tackle Party presented by South Florida Ford at the Miami Beach Marina. That evening, participants gathered inside a large tent by the Marina and got to interact with their favorite Dolphins players and alumni, such as wide receiver Kenny Stills, defensive back Michael Thomas, linebackers Zach Vigil and Mike Hull, safety Walt Aikens and running back Jay Ajayi.
The party came together with a lot of help from one Stan Rudman, who is a co-chairman for the Miami Dolphins' Fins Weekend, and he was a key player in securing Hook and Tackle's involvement.
"I kinda own the company," Rudman said with a laugh. "Hook and Tackle's been around for about thirty years now, it's a family business, and the Dolphins reached out to us about twenty years ago to get involved in a small fishing tournament. Lo and behold, two or three years later I become one of the co-chairs, and it's become a very personal mission for me because I actually see where the money goes, I see the money raised, I see the children, I see them develop."
Hook and Tackle donated $250,000 to City Year this year, and for Rudman, it was well worth the investment for personal reasons which he shared.
"When you actually see, when you make a donation and you see where the money goes and how it helps the community, it's a great feeling." Rudman said. "Years ago we did an event with children with cystic fibrosis, and I met these kids who were six years old. We took them out for a day fishing with players one on one, and these kids were so ill that they didn't have a lot of time left. But for that hour or two, they completely forgot they were sick, they were smiling and so happy and it brought tears to my eyes. That changed my life."
Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins also made an appearance at Fins Weekend, and he too has had similar experiences with children who are in need that touched him on a personal level.
"Just this last summer I went to this American diabetes association and met a young child with diabetes." Jenkins said. "That really catapulted me this offseason to continue to give back, it made me realize just how much people actually go through around this world and how fortunate we are. For the fact we can give back, for the fact that we can raise awareness of different situations, I think it's very important."
Fins Weekend came to a close on Saturday, when a total of 50 boats headed out early in the morning for some deep sea fishing, with each boat holding a few players, alumni or executives.
Safety Walt Aikens was one of the representatives for the fishing tournament, and although he said he didn't grow up around the ocean, his first ever deep sea fishing experience had him come in with two large tuna fish in hand and a story about the one that got away.
"It was a little rough at first," Aikens said. "We threw a lot of chum in the water and it picked up like ASAP. We started getting some big tuna, and I had a sailfish, got it to the boat, and I tried to pull it up and it snapped the line."
The tournament was cut somewhat short due to a sudden thunderstorm that came over the horizon, but the winners were still announced as Team Never Done, consisting of Dany Ayo, Marcus Bach-Armas, Jason Robinson and junior angler J.J. Rodriguez. The winners received a spot on the team charter on a Miami Dolphins away trip.
Though the rain tried to dampen everyone's spirits, the event still succeeded for the 20th year in a row, and now kids from Miami Carol City and Miami Norland Senior High Schools will be reaping the benefits of the efforts put forth by the Miami Dolphins and their sponsors.
“For two decades, Fins Weekend has been a staple in South Florida, bringing together players, coaches, cheerleaders and the community to benefit a greater cause,” Fins Weekend Committee Chair Jeff Peck said. “We look forward to many more decades of making a true impact in education that stays right here in South Florida.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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