Students Organize Fishing Tournament to Benefit Cancer Research

A photo of Garret Greca, Savannah Billett, and Hunter Schoch standing side by side in front of a yellow building.

From left: Garret Greca, Savannah Billett, and Hunter Schoch. Photo credit: Savannah Billett.

Three USF St. Petersburg freshmen have turned a class assignment into an opportunity to benefit BeatNB, a nonprofit childhood cancer group that drives neuroblastoma cancer research and raises awareness. Savannah Billett, Hunter Schoch and Garret Greca have organized Fishing for the Fight, a fishing tournament to help raise funds for the organization on Saturday, May 6.

The 19-year-old students reside in the Leadership House Living Learning Community on campus. LLCs provide students with a chance to live, study, and learn with others who share an interest in leadership, biology, environmental science and sustainability. Starting in the fall, there will be a fourth LLC focused on raising guide dog puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs.

As part of their leadership course, students are required to identify a challenge within the community and work with stakeholders to implement a solution.

“We decided to do a fishing tournament because Hunter and Garret eat, sleep, and breathe fishing, and I wanted to do something that would benefit cancer research,” said Billett, who has been actively supporting cancer research efforts since seventh grade. Billett realized her passion for supporting cancer research after meeting Ezra Matthews, who had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma and lived for only 800 days.

According to the American Cancer Society, neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that affects the sympathetic nervous system and occurs most often in infants and young children. After meeting Matthews and his parents, Billett started out by making and selling bracelets at her school and holding restaurant fundraising events with her family to benefit the nonprofit foundation Because of Ezra, now BeatNB. After Billett’s aunt died of brain cancer, her family started a cancer foundation in her honor.

To create the tournament, Billett sought the guidance of Mike Anderson, who hosts radio shows and “The Reel Animals Fishing Show” on TV, and holds competitive fishing tournaments around the state.

“These kids are doing an amazing job,” said Anderson, who invited the students to speak about the tournament on his radio show on 970 WFLA. “I host about seven charity events a year here in Tampa, and I would love to have these incredible young adults on any of our tournament committees. It takes a great deal of time and energy to pull off an event like this, and they should all be very proud of their efforts.”

Billett said the tournament has received donations of food, t-shirts, marketing materials, and tournament prizes from family, friends, and local businesses.

“Everything that we’ve gotten so far for this tournament has been donated by somebody,” said Billett. “That was our goal, so we wouldn’t take any of the proceeds from BeatNB to host the tournament.”

On April 28 at 11 a.m., the team will speak to their experiences in the Leadership House LLC and about their project with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman at City Hall. Two other teams will speak to their civic engagement initiatives as well, and will include issues of safety for students at night on or near the USFSP campus, and safety for students at a local elementary school.

Visit the BeatNB website to learn more about the tournament or to register to participate.