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Cat Daddy Challenge: Fishing tourney to raise money for families dealing with pediatric cancer

June 14, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Southwest Florida anglers looking to get out on the water this weekend for a boat-load of fun and prizes - while supporting a great charity - need not look any further than the 2018 Coastal Outfitters Cat Daddy Challenge at Port Sanibel Marina.

99.3 ESPN Southwest Florida, along with 96 K- Rock are hosting the third annual cat-fishing tournament Saturday with proceeds going to Caleb's Crusade - a local nonprofit organization geared towards raising money for pediatric cancer families.

99.3 ESPN radio host Pete Sheppard, of the Shemon and Sheppard show, said the event is a blast for anyone who loves fishing and fun.

"Last year was a tremendous experience. It was my first real event after moving to Southwest Florida and I had a great time. Even Shemon got out there and well - tried to fish," he said jokingly.

This is a great way to kick-off Father's Day weekend - what better way to spend some time with Dad than fishing in beautiful Gulf waters, organizers said.

"It's a great family experience," added Sheppard.

"Makes a great Father's Day gift. It's a big bonding moment. We have friends and family who haven't seen each other in a while, and this brings them together."

The two-day event begins with a Captain's Party at Rusty's Raw Bar and Grill in Cape Coral starting tonight at 6 p.m.. This will be the last opportunity to register to compete and all captains must be present.

Complementary appetizers will be available to participants, with a silent auction from 6-8, which will carry over to the event the next day ending at 4:30 p.m. - all proceeds will go to Caleb's Crusade.

You may also enlist at, though attendance at the Captains Party is necessary.

Registration is $350 per team - up to four people including a captain, $50 for each additional angler.

$5,000 worth of cash and prizes will be up for grabs.

The Cat Daddy starts at the Port Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers with a 7 a.m. honor time.

Captains will have until 4 p.m. to fill their bucket (lid closed) with catfish. The team with the heaviest bucket will take home the first place prize of $3,000.

Second will be awarded $1,000, third $700 and 21st $300.

Weigh-ins will be from 1-4 p.m. with the weigh master being the final decision maker.

An awards dinner and ceremony will be held following the conclusion of the tournament at the Landshark Party Pavilion on site at the marina, beginning at 4:30.

Food will be provided by Burgerque.

A $10 wrist band may be purchased for family members not on the boat, so they may enjoy food at the Captain's Party and awards dinner.

Other prizes include raffles, gift cards, Bass Pro Shops items and more.

You must be a Florida resident and have a valid fishing license to compete, all Florida fishing and boating laws apply.

At least one person on the boat must be 21 years of age or older.

A full list of contest rules can also be found on the website.

"You don't find many fishing tournaments like this down here," Sheppard continued.

"It's competitive, but everyone has a good time. Serious but fun. There's some great anglers down here. It brings out the best in people. Not to mention how charitable the event is."

Caleb's Crusade was started by parents Rob and Monique Whan, after their son Caleb passed away due to a rare form of leukemia in 2008. He had just turned 4.

They promised to make a difference for families who also have children battling childhood cancer after his passing, starting the nonprofit in 2009.

"We felt huge support from the community during our trying time, and we want to give back and help as many families as we can," Rob said.

The Fort Myers native and his wife are constantly playing a role for childhood cancer across the country, including 20 trips to Washington, D.C. to champion federal funding.

"We've worked on numerous bills, including the Star Act that was just signed by President Trump last week," he said.

The Childhood Cancer Star Act is the most in-depth childhood cancer legislation to ever be taken up by Congress. It's designed to advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance and provide enhanced resources for survivors.

Rob said that getting funding from the National Cancer Institute can be tough, and that the rarer forms of cancer, such as the leukemia Caleb had, gets pushed down the list. Less than 4 percent of the NCI's budget goes towards childhood cancer research.

Some of the assistance Caleb's Crusade provides to families include rent/mortgage, utilities, car payments, groceries, emotional support and more.

"We are helping out seven families at the moment," he added.

"We have been providing each of them $500-$1000 a month to help with costs; one family, we have been paying their monthly mortgage in full."

In 2016, "Caleb's Superheros Playground" was constructed in Fort Myers at The Villas Civic Association grounds, a playground dedicated to Caleb whose parents said he loved to swing more than anything in the world.

"We wanted a brick-and-mortar legacy for Caleb, something we could give to the community that we could visit, a playground was the perfect idea - where better than right in our own neighborhood?" Rob said.

He was shocked the funding for the park happened so fast and the support they received was "mind-blowing."

They had a 5-year plan in place for construction, it happened in 6 months.

"It's a beautiful thing," Rob remarked.

This weekend, Caleb's Crusade looks forward to having a day filled with fishing, fun and spending time with one another.

"This is our second year being involved in the Cat Daddy Challenge and we hope it continues for many years," said Rob.

Jason Jones, tournament coordinator, or "Big Mama" to radio listeners of B103.9, contacted the Whans last year and said he had has his eye on the charity for some time - and that "there is no more hard working charity than Caleb's Crusaders."

Those sentiments stuck with the family.

This year, Rob is inviting a special guest to fish with him, 5 year-old Joey Jones, who has leukemia, along with his father.

"Hopefully we'll make some great memories. It's a great opportunity to serve a lot of people and have fun fishing while doing it."

To donate to Caleb's Crusade, visit

Other sponsors that make the Cat Daddy Challenge possible are Port Sanibel Marina, Victory Layne Chevrolet, Florida Community Bank, Rusty's Raw Bar and Tow Boat U.S.

99.3 ESPN and 96 K-Rock are owned by Beasley Media Group, LLC.

Rusty's Raw Bar and Grill is at 4631 S.E. 10th Place, Cape Coral.

Port Sanibel Marina is at 14341 Port Comfort Road, Fort Myers.



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