MOREHEAD CITY, NC — The 11th annual Reelin’ for Research fishing tournament raised $605,000 for pediatric oncology research at UNC Children’s Hospital. The one-day event took place on Saturday, May 4, 2019, where fishing enthusiasts across North Carolina went fishing for a cure to raise money for childhood cancer. Every cent is donated to the cause.
“The last 11 years working with the Reelin’ for Research team has been unbelievable– it has turned into something truly spectacular and grown into something very hard to describe,” said Dr. Stuart Gold, MD, UNC Children’s Hospital Chief, Division of Hematology & Oncology. “They are able to create an event that raises money and is fun, all while helping children with cancer.”
One of Dr. Stuart Gold’s patients at UNC Children’s, Ashley Burnette, also feels connected to the cause.
“Reelin’ has been a huge part of my life for about six years now,” Ashley commented. “I’ve grown to know all of the people in the organization so well. They are like my family.”
In the summer of 2010, Ashley Burnette was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma at seven-years-old.
“I was in over my head, and my family was overwhelmed, but we knew that the UNC Children’s Hospital was the right place for me to be,” said Ashley. “The minute we walked in, we were greeted with smiling faces and people treating us like family. My doctors and nurses are some of the best people I have ever met. Dr. Gold has always been a big part of my life. Even when he wasn’t supposed to see me, he would find me. He was someone during my cancer journey that made me forget about what was happening, and I could be a kid.”
To date, Reelin’ for Research has raised over three and a half million dollars for childhood cancer research and is one of the largest fellowship donors to the hospital. The money raised during the event is donated to the Tony Montana Fellowship Fund at UNC Children’s Hospital. The fund is awarded to a physician specializing in childhood cancer research. Reelin’ for Research raises well above the amount to fund the fellowship each year. The remainder is placed into an endowment which will eventually fund the fellowship into perpetuity, all for childhood cancer research.
Dr. Gold fished in this year’s tournament with four former UNC Children’s patients, including Ashley Burnette, Alex Werden, Allen Lee and Hailey Hawkins. Dr. Steven Norris, also of UNC Children’s, fished with “Fishing for George” in honor of his current patient, George Seifert. George and his family attended the tournament for the first time this year.
Reelin’ for Research is an organization close to the hearts of participants, volunteers, patients and physicians.
“I started by volunteering and doing whatever I could because I loved what they were doing and the message they were sending out,” Ashley said. “Last year, I fished for the first time, and it was one of the most fun days ever. They make the entire weekend fun and welcoming to everyone. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
At age 15, Ashley is a sophomore in high school. She is now cancer-free and speaks publicly about her experience with childhood cancer.
“I went through treatment from 2010 to 2012 and a few days before the anniversary of my diagnosis, I found out I was cancer free,” she said. “Since I was diagnosed, I like to share my story with other people. My mom has been a huge part of it and works in the fundraising department at UNC Children’s.”
Reelin’ for Research raises money year-round to help land a cure for childhood cancer. The first Reelin’ for Research tournament was held in 2009 to honor Tony Montana who passed away from cancer in 2005. His son, Richard Montana, founder and chairman of Reelin’ for Research has dedicated this event to raising money for children. Tony remarked during his battle with cancer that children were too often deprived of a long and full life. Since then, the Reelin’ for Research team has raised record funds for the cause and developed a strong bond with patients, physicians and the local community.
“Through all this, a lot of friendships have been forged. It feels more like a family reunion than a fundraiser weekend,” said Dr. Gold, “There are no words that can express the gratitude I have for the Reelin’ for Research team and the participants.”
REELIN’ FOR RESEARCH 2019 RESULTS
The 2019 Skinner Award
The Skinner Award is presented to the Reelin’ for Research team that raises the most money, 100% of which benefits UNC Children’s Hospital and childhood cancer research. The award is named in honor of Buzz Skinner who lost is battle to cancer in 2010.
1st place: Raised a total of $154,075
2nd place: Raised a total of $24,301
3rd place: raised a total of $24,282
“Ken’s Crew,” fishing in memory of parents, Ken and Lee Conrad
This year, first place for inshore fishing was awarded to the boat, “Tie One On” and first place in the offshore division was awarded to the boat, “Pelagic.”
Congratulations to Gary Graham, Sully Graham, Chris Stanley and Thomas Stanley of “Tie One On” for the biggest catch of the inshore fishing tournament and winners of the offshore division, Stewart Black, Dave Jones, Sean O’Connell, Capt. Mike Webb and Mate Robbie Hall of “Pelagic.”
About Reelin’ for Research
Reelin’ for Research is a year-round fundraising effort benefitting the UNC Children’s Hospital and childhood cancer research. It culminates each year with a one-day, offshore and inshore fishing tournament in Morehead City, N.C. The next competition will take place on May 2, 2020. The first tournament was held in 2009 in memory of Tony Montana, who passed away from cancer in 2005. Tony was blessed to live a long and full life but remarked during his battle that children with cancer were too often deprived of that chance. Today, roughly 60 boats compete annually, making Reelin’ for Research one of the largest offshore and inshore fishing tournaments on the East Coast. Furthermore, Reelin’ for Research has grown beyond the tournament, becoming a year-round fundraising effort with nearly three and a half million dollars raised to date – all for childhood cancer research.