#FishForJose 2020 Thank You & Reflection

The Fish For Jose weekend began Friday with the kick off party at the best restaurant in the Florida Keys, the Square Grouper’s My New Joint.  The menu was marvelous!  The main courses ranged from fish or filet mignon sliders to a buffet of delectable salads and finger food like Thai and buffalo lollipop wings.  The sauces the Grouper prepares, often with local ingredients, elevate the food to truly gourmet.
Papa’s Pilar Rum and Bombora Vodka donated rum and vodka with the proceeds of specialty drinks going to the Foundation.  The Stoney Moloney was a crowd favorite, named after Krissy’s late husband David Moloney.  Owner Lynn Bell makes sure that her food is always on point.  If you ask around, chances are NO ONE has ever had a bad meal, and that’s why people keep coming back.  They are also rated #1 on Trip Advisor. If you are in the Keys be sure to check them out.  It was a great way to welcome people for the weekend and a chance to catch up.  The staff even spent a considerable amount on raffles and it paid off!  Got to pay to play!
Torie, a past Foundation recipient, shared her remarkable story the first night.  She was diagnosed in 2014 at age 16 with a rare bone cancer.  After long, grueling treatment she had the heartbreaking news that the cancer had spread to her lungs.  She underwent more chemo, more surgery and pain. Nothing was working and the future looked bleak.  Her 29 week treatment turned into three years.  It was an unending nightmare for Torie and her whole family.
Unknown to Torie, a friend had referred her to the Foundation for a family trip. In the summer of 2017 Torie and her whole family came to the Keys for a fishing trip. It was a chance to just be a family for a while and leave the stress and anxiety of cancer back in South Carolina.  They fished, went kayaking and explored the history of Key West. Torie is a history buff and was fascinated by the island’s colorful past. She also learned that she failed at basic boat captain skills.  Dave Moloney gave her the wheel while fishing and told her to steer straight.  She kept the wheel still and ended up going in a circle!  Dave had fun with that!  Like many things about the ocean, there is so much to learn.
Torie also shared the most amazing news.  Just before her trip she had a very concerning CAT scan. It was repeated after the trip and everything was good! She has a strong belief in the healing properties of vitamin D and that vitamin S-E-A made all the difference.
Torie is reluctant to use the word “cure,” but she has been cancer free since her trip. Her story was a stunning tribute and moving to all who listened.  She was eloquent in her connection to the Foundation and what she believes was a life changing trip.  She will always have a special place in the hearts of all who know her.
Saturday Backyard dinner at Jose’s
With a windy cold front coming through, good beverages were appreciated.  The donated Tito’s Vodka and local company Pilar donated rum.  Pilar is a new Key West company named after Ernest Hemingway’s boat. Some of Papa’s heirs are part of the company and they have true Key West spirit and wonderful rum.  Spanish Fly IPA brewed specially by long time Spanish Fly friend and family Ray Torres was perfect. He brews it every year and volunteers his time to tend bar at the backyard dinner. Everyone always enjoys the seafood appetizers, generously donated by Daddy Gatti Seafood, owned by native conch (people born in the Keys), Christian Gatti.  This is Christian’s second year donating thousands of dollars worth of stone crab, Key West pinks, and yellowfin tuna.  He does this out of the kindness of his heart and has never asked for anything in return.  A true testament of friends becoming family.  The full bar was provided for the third year in a row by local liquor store Summerland Wine and Spirits.
The music was by Zach Lovering.  He does a great job of taking classic and new age music and making it his own, and is always a crowd-pleaser.  This is his second year, and he has also played the Spanish Fly Music Festival.
New, and up-and-coming restaurant, South of the Seven catered the event with prime rib, seafood cannelloni,  duck wings and much more.  They even shut down their restaurant to make sure everything was smooth sailing at the event, and it was. Owners Krissy and Paul are attentive to detail and take pride in their food.
As we ate, a special viewing of Jose’s work with other foundations and the Foundation’s work was shown.  Steve Miller emceed the entire event, and he always donates his time too.  Steve has been a very active person in the community and continuously gives back.
Next, our new President Denise Bays welcomed everyone and spoke to the group.  Denise shared how she was connected to the Foundation.  She had met Jose in the 1980’s when she was working for an accounting firm that handled his business and tax returns.  Whenever they met, he would tell her about his latest travels.  She would try to teach him about tax laws. He glazed over….  In spite of coming from different worlds and skill sets, they had a connection. It was part of Jose’s gift. After Jose passed away this special connection transferred to his daughter Krissy.  Denise pledged to work hard the next two years to forge more connections, fulfill more dreams.  All of it would have made Jose proud.
Carter Andrews shared how Jose had impacted him. Jose came to the Bahamas and introduced him to live bait fishing. He emphasized the importance of sharing knowledge and giving back by teaching the next generation of anglers.  Carter was a frequent guest on the Spanish Fly show and now he has his own show,  Obsession of Carter Andrews.
Next, it was Krissy’s turn.  She started by giving updates on the Foundation’s accomplishments in fishing trips given, expanded conservation efforts as well as changes to how recipients are found.  Previously, the Foundation relied on other reputable organizations to vet individuals who could benefit from the full Keys experience.  Now, the Foundation will process all referrals in-house so everyone, please spread the word on what the Foundation does and what help is available.
The most emotional part of the evening was when Krissy shared how tragedy had once again altered her life:
”As many of you know 2019 did not end how I expected.  I found out I was pregnant in August.  My husband Dave and I were excited and initially a little terrified at the same time.  We managed to keep our son AJ safe for this long, but doing the fragile baby boy stage again…we both wanted it, but didn’t think it would happen so soon.  Well I’m grateful it did.  The morning of October 3 Dave drowned.  How it happened we will never know, and honestly to me it doesn’t matter. Death is so final and unfortunately I have learned that no matter how much you plan it only takes one moment for everything to change.
Life is a series of moments, and to be aware of that little piece of time when everything about your life changes is something that I am much more aware of now.  That moment I got the call about my dad, or that moment when I found my husband.  Or that moment that you find out your pregnant, that moment when you tell your spouse the news, the moment that baby is put in your arms.  The 11 years of moments I had with Dave I will cherish forever.
Dave brought so much to the Foundation.  He was by far our biggest volunteer.  Dave provided a bridge in ways that I never could.  I grew up an only child that was lucky enough to have an education available to me.  Dave was the oldest of 8, and at the time, college was not monetarily feasible for his family.  He served our country for 9 years in the Navy, and he paved the road for the rest of his siblings to follow suit – three sisters in the Air Force, one brother in the Marines, and another at the Naval Academy. One sister, Mary, is now Air Force reserve and has made the move to the Florida Keys to help me with our soon-to-be-born new addition, Ryder.  James made the difficult decision to come down and spend his spring break from the Naval Academy here helping out this weekend.
Dave grew up helping with his siblings and went on to serve his country.  When we would meet our Foundation recipients, whether a kid or veterans, Dave being a big brother, was a good teacher to these kids.  He also provided a bridge to connect me to our veterans , most of whom have had their struggles.  Dave could make anyone laugh, he was the life of the party.  Now since his death I have learned all over again the strength of our community and how good people pull together in times of tragedy. “
Even though 3 year old son, AJ Moloney, did not comprehend the speech, he ran up to give his very pregnant mom a hug when she needed it most.
Live auction time!  Special guest  NFL Hall of Famer, Warren Sapp, came and donated a custom signed football and jersey.  Dale and Susie Emerick donated back Spanish Fly fishing rods that were made in collaboration with Jose and Shimano.  Last year, they bought them for $6000 and then Rene and Bo Ackerman bought them this year for $4000.  Everyone’s  generosity is greatly appreciated.
Sunday was the wrap party at Saltwater Angler with an open bar provided by Tony Murphy – a friend and former board member to the Foundation.  The wrap party provides a time for everyone to reflect on the weekend and say our goodbyes.  And of course, we raise a few extra bucks!  A special shout out to Frank Dash.  Frank has come to Fish for Jose every year, and 90% of what he wins he either donates back to the Foundation or gives it to our volunteers.  Best friend and board member Terry Cassidy, and all star coordinator and volunteer Dee Dee Vaughn, received Spanish Fly YETI coolers from Frank.
We also added an online auction where people could participate from afar.  Top Landed sponsors Dale and Susie Emerick won Leader Sponsors “Two Conchs fishing trip” to be filmed with Jack Carlson on the show.  We are really looking forward to that episode!
Our national #FishForJose photo contest allowed people to go and do something Jose would do on or off the water.  The photos were uploaded to instagram or Facebook.  The top three photos with the most likes won. The winning photos will be posted to the Foundation’s website. The prizes were:
  • 1st Place:  Custom YETI Rambler by Caleb Goins.
  • 2nd Place: Lobster Trap Metal Art ( from Jose’s original photography).
  • 3rd Place:  Spanish Fly Gift Pack
To close out the three day event, Krissy took time to say a thank you to all of our sponsors, especially to Dale and Susie Emerick who reached out to me after her dad died, and they gave. They were there when Dave passed, and they were there for the 2020 Fish For Jose.  Their single donation to this event will change the course of a whole family’s path,and this isn’t the first, second, third time they have done this.
Jack Carlson from Two Conchs has stepped up in more ways than one. As a second year sponsor to this event, he has also donated trips for Wesley House kids and will film a second show where the Foundation is featured soon.
The Hot Tuna family couldn’t be at the event due to filming conflicts with Wicked Tuna, but Krissy was thrilled that their show is thriving and sent a special happy birthday wish to Tim Ott – aka Papa Tuna today.
All of us at the Foundation are grateful for the ongoing support from Yeti, SeaDek, and E-Searider.   To everyone who gave, will give, volunteered or even provided words of encouragement, we thank you.  Special shout out to Dee Dee, Mikki, Chuck and Debbi for taking the lead and picking up my slack during this difficult time. At this moment I am grateful for every one of you. – Krissy Wejebe