Big rock. Big fish. Big boats. Big money.
And don’t forget big donor.
The oversized checks for prizewinners in the 58th Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament will grab attention, but smaller checks will make big impacts in Morehead City and beyond long after the June 18 awards banquet ends.
“This year, we’ll probably go over the $4 million mark in charitable contributions since 1986. The overwhelming majority of that has come probably in the past 10 years,” said charity chairman Tommy Bennett of Morehead City, a independent agent with The Insurance Center who is volunteering for his 27th Big Rock.
In addition to a $1.6 million purse last year, sponsorships, entry fees and merchandise sales funded $402,500 in donations to nonprofits.
“The idea behind the (Big Rock) Foundation was to make sure our core charities could rely on an annual contribution from the Big Rock,” Bennett said.
Besides promoting fishing and tourism in Carteret County, which has a per capita income around $28,000, the foundation has helped fund the event headquarters, a huge fountain and the Big Rock Landing weigh-in station. Big Rock Stadium houses a baseball team. Donations take the N.C. Symphony into schools; support a free health clinic, a history museum, a homeless shelter, food banks and Boy Scouts programs; provide high school band uniforms; teach boatbuilding; and help mentally handicapped adults learn job skills. A $65,000 donation will help fund a skateboard park in Atlantic Beach.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is our relationship with Crystal Coast Hospice House,” Bennett said, referring to a $200,000 donation for land for the much-needed facility that now serves five counties from Big Rock Weigh in Newport.
Fishing starts June 11 with the 19th Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament. KWLA proceeds benefit Raab Oncology patients at Carteret Health Care, which received $25,000 from last year’s record 96-boat women’s event.
Bennett’s thick notebook holds dozens of grant requests.
“It’s a very exciting time after things calm down,” Bennett said, “to see what money we have available and what we can fund.”
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BIG ROCK BLUE MARLIN TOURNAMENT
Activities: June 10-18 (main event June 13-18)
Weigh-ins: Morehead City waterfront
Entry: $2,500 to $19,000
2015 winner: Viking 62, captain Brian Komer, angler Earle Hall, 680 pounds, $560,500 from a $1,632,650 purse
Live audio and video: www.thebigrock.com