GOOSE CREEK, S.C. — Needy children in southern South Carolina got to celebrate this past Christmas the way their more privileged peers do every year — with gifts under the tree — thanks to the Cooper River Bassmasters.
Fifty-two two-man teams participated in the 4th Annual Cooper River Bassmasters Toys for Tots Tournament, Dec. 3, 2011, amassing 362 toys, 40 bicycles, five tricycles and more than $1,800 in cash for the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots program.
“This is the big event of the year for our club,” said Fred Cruise, Cooper River Bassmasters president. “We’re serious about helping kids. We invite all the surrounding bass clubs and anglers to participate. A part of the entry fee is an unwrapped gift, and the clubs are all challenged to donate a bike. The balance of our contributions come from our two primary sponsors, Skeeter Boats and Marshall’s Marine in Lake City.”
Along with anglers, clubs and sponsors, the 11-member club relies on publicity from a local TV station, NBC affiliate Channel 2. “We absolutely wouldn’t have the turnout we do without them. We can’t say thanks loud enough,” he said.
Cooper River Bassmasters members Bob Letizi and Derrick Nixon won this year’s tournament. They boated 21.21 pounds to claim first place, although both men know the real winners are the kids who benefit from the Toys for Tots Program.
“All our club members have some military connection,” said Nixon. “We’re a part of this community, and we know times are tough. We appreciate the number of kids with needs. I speak for every angler out there when I say that’s what drives us, although I will admit that the chance to fish doesn’t hurt things.”