Student-Organized Fishing Tournament to raise more than $15,000 for Childhood Cancer Research

From left: USF St. Petersburg students Garret Greca, Savannah Billett, and Hunter Schoch.

From left: USF St. Petersburg students Garret Greca, Savannah Billett, and Hunter Schoch.

(March 29, 2018) – For the second consecutive year, three USF St. Petersburg students have organized “Fishing for the Fight,” a fishing tournament to help raise awareness and funds for neuroblastoma cancer research.

Last year, the tournament raised $5,000 for the nonprofit childhood cancer group BeatNB, whose mission is to beat neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers through clinical trials and research. This year, students Savannah Billett, Hunter Schoch and Garret Greca have already raised more than $12,000 through sponsorships. They expect the final tally after the tournament on Saturday, April 7 to reach more than $15,000.

“I’m so excited about how much this fishing tournament has expanded and how the community has responded to it,” said Billett. “It is amazing that we may possibly triple the amount we raised last year.”

The idea to raise awareness and funds for cancer research through fishing began in a leadership course at USF St. Petersburg. At the time, the three students resided in the Leadership House Living Learning Community (LLC) on campus, which is administered by the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership. LLCs provide students with a chance to live, study and learn with others who share an interest in areas such as leadership, biology, environmental science and sustainability.

As part of this leadership course, students are required to identify a challenge within the community and work with stakeholders to implement a solution. Combining Billett’s experience fundraising for cancer research and Schoch and Greca’s passion for fishing, they organized “Fishing for the Fight,” which brought out 30 fishermen on 12 boats catching red fish, snook and trout last year.

Along with raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, the tournament taught the college students plenty.

“The first time doing anything is a challenge. So many times we had to just figure it out and improvise or change something, but it always worked out,” said Schoch. “I think we learned the importance of relying on a team of people you can trust, delegating responsibility and watching as you accomplish your goal.”

For Billett, supporting cancer research is a lifelong passion. At age 12, she met 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. Since that fateful encounter, Billett has done a variety of activities over the last eight years – from making and selling bracelets at her school to holding restaurant fundraising events – for the BeatNB organization, which was founded by Ezra’s father.

Billett’s work over the years was recently recognized at the WEDU Be More Awards in February, where she received the Be More Inspiring, Rising Star Award. The award recognizes individuals under 21 who have distinguished themselves as community leaders.

“I don’t realize that what I do makes a difference, I just do it because I’m passionate about the cause. But it’s really exciting to be recognized for that work,” Billett said.

The recognition was that much sweeter, as the day before the awards ceremony the USF St. Petersburg students found out the Ryan Callahan Foundation donated $5,000 to the fishing tournament, the biggest sponsor to date. The Foundation, started by Tampa Bay Lightning hockey player Ryan Callahan, makes memorable experiences a reality for kids who are battling, or who have survived, cancer. The fishing tournament has also received donations of food, t-shirts, marketing materials and tournament prizes from family, friends and local businesses.

“Fishing for the Fight” starts at 7 a.m. on April 7. Those who catch the biggest red fish, snook and trout will receive a Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler. For more information about the tournament, rules and to register, visit: https://beatnb.org/fish/.