The Good Health Clinic is hosting its 7th annual Beach Luau on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Founders Park Beach, where it will crown this year’s winner of the Big Kahuna fundraising contest.
The competition kicked off on Nov. 1 and continued into the first week of Feb.
This year’s Kahuna hopefuls are Coastal Realty’s Eric Billips, Dr. Omani Diaz of Florida Keys Dentists, Mariners Hospital Director of Imaging J.C. Holmes, Cannon’s John Ribble, Florida Keys Electric Co-op’s Jason Richards, and Mariners Hospital’s Anais Diaz. The winner not only gets bragging rights, but also possession of the coveted Kahuna Tiki Trophy, for now held by last year’s winner Retz Reeves.
“Kahunas are chosen based on their relationship with the community, upstanding citizenship, and capacity to fundraise,” said the Good Health Clinic’s Kate Banick. “The Kahuna competition alone can raise up to 20 percent of our operating costs.”
Over the course of the competition the six kahunas have partnered with more than 200 combined individuals and businesses, Banick estimated. Each went about raising money in creative ways.
Some of the Kahunas, like Holmes, harnessed the power of social media or used Go Fund Me to campaign. Known for his lionfish expertise, and cameos on Gordon Ramsay’s “The F Word,” Billips hosted a filmed Lion Fish Tasting to raise money. Ribble held a wine tasting, fantasy football event, backyard barbecue and karaoke contest. Richards hosted a corn hole tournament and raffled off a golf cart donated by Key Largo’s RIVA motorsports.
“It’s an honor to be chosen to do this,” said Richards. “I stopped in and saw the work the clinic was doing. I didn’t realize the amount of people they were helping. A lot of time we take for granted being in good health. I try to teach my kids to support their community. There a lot of people that can’t afford healthcare. They should be afforded the same opportunity to be helped as anybody else.”
Baptist Health’s Diaz partnered with the Green Turtle Inn to host a lip synching contest. Dr. Omani Diaz’s office promoted the fundraiser by raffling off a teeth whitening procedure and a Philips Sonicare toothbrush.
“Thank you to Frank Sansone and Mr. and Mrs. Joel Weider for their contributions to this great cause, and a huge thank you to my staff for their hard work raising awareness about the clinic,” said Dr. Diaz.
The money raised from the competition is put toward the clinic’s general operation costs.
“It enables us to be consistent in funding and helps make sure our facility remains fully operating, said Banick.
Banick said 60 percent of the Good Health Clinic’s patients were significantly affected by Hurricane Irma. Since then, more than $35,000 worth of medications and medical supplies from national partners have been donated to the clinic. There is certainly a need for it.
Last year, the clinic provided $1.5 million in medications, and more than $4 million in medical services to county residents. The management of illness and debilitating conditions gets the clinic’s patients back on their feet fast, said Banick, as 35 percent of the clinic’s surveyed patients report missing less work after receiving medical services.
“The clinic also successfully arranged more than 30 charitable care surgeries, and has begun partnership with pharmaceutical companies,” said Banick. “Through those partnerships we’ve been able to cure 20 Keys residents living with hepatitis C. Normally the medication regimens would cost for those with no insurance more than $100,000; they get it for free.”
With the money raised from the competition, the clinic can continue providing the necessary medical services and medications patients need to stay healthy. The clinic mainly serves uninsured and income-constrained Monroe County residents, with its patients made up of working class people, said Banick.