Islander(s) of the year: Privateers!
|The Anna Maria Island Privateers and their trademark ship are the feature of two parades they sponsor every year on Anna Maria Island.
If there is a symbol for Anna Maria Island, it is the sword-wielding, cannon-firing, ship-riding crew of the Anna Maria Island Privateers.
And for all the good they do year after year, this year stood out for their extra efforts on behalf of one unfortunate little boy.
It only took a phone call to bring the Privateers and their ship to greet a young boy with a failing heart on a "wish" trip to Anna Maria Island. And it wasn't just a greeting for little Tyler and his siblings and parents. They were treated to an Island tour aboard ship, escorted to dinner, and made honorary Privateers - and "Captain" Tyler was invited to return and take over the ship.
It was a selfless and remarkable gesture that symbolized hope for Tyler and filled his little heart with love for our Island paradise. They helped give him so many reasons to return - and hope.
The Privateers also came to the rescue for Hurricane Katrina relief, collecting needed items and transporting them to Tampa where other pirate crews assembled donations for air-transport to awaiting relief teams in the northern Gulf Coast.
Next, the Privateers agreed to manage a memorial scholarship fund for an Island teen who was tragically killed in a car crash. The fund for Bridget Miller is still growing and promises to be an annual scholarship for students hoping for medical careers. It will be a great addition to the many scholarships the Privateers award to local youths every year in July.
Their successful extension program at Manatee High School, Privateens, was carried forward to the University of Florida by MHS graduates this year. Picaroon, the UF chartered club name, is synonymous with Privateer, and offers students at UF community service opportunities with the added intrigue of pirate lore.
The Privateers accomplished all this and more in 2005. Their annual Snooks Adams Kids Day event at the end of the school year; monthly "thieves markets" in season; the Islandwide Blood Drive; the Fourth of July parade and picnic; the Christmas parade and Santa visits; and the many, many "captures" and visits at Island businesses and greetings at almost every event where their presence is requested throughout the year.
They managed to raise separate funds to buy a new, large seafood smoker, which allows them to raise scholarship funding with "mullet smokes" during season.
They did all this and more - and they did it selflessly. They did it in spite of the sudden illness and death of their president, Greg "Shiprek" Davidson.
He was a guiding force in the club's relief efforts - a benevolent soul with a sharp sword who could drive others to help his cause and give generously.
He was aided by Dick Cline, who also died in 2005. Dick's battle with cancer didn't stop him from working tirelessly behind the scenes. He was especially relentless in promoting the Islandwide Blood Drive for the benefit of not only the Privateers, but also for the other three charities, all receiving $100 per donor during the event.
In spite of their losses, the Privateers continue to do great things and the organization promises to be the symbol of Anna Maria Island for many years to come.
The stated mission of the Anna Maria Island Privateers is "Pirates for children and community."
They fulfill their mission and more, and we are all better for it.
For these reasons, they are our choice for Islanders of the year - this year and every year.