Jerry Jeff Walker and fans raise $25,000 for needy

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 3            January 18, 2001

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Lion President Flora Ancona accepts donation from Jerry Jeff

Once again, country music star Jerry Jeff Walker has lent his name and talent to benefit La Isla Bonita. Over 300 of the singer/songwriter's fans converged on the island last week to enjoy "foot stompin" music performed by Mr. Walker and guitarist John Inmon, raising $25,000.00 in the process for the community.

    Opening only three days before they arrived, Dockside Bar & Grill hosted the jubilant group for four nights of fun. On Thursday and Saturday, the Dockside was filled to capacity as the fans from the US enjoyed private shows and raised funds for island residents whose homes were completely destroyed by Hurricane Keith. Fans donated money (from $50BZ to $100US) to hear their favorite Jerry Jeff songs. In addition, they "passed the hat," and competed in an auction for merchandise and paraphernalia. The highlight of the bidding was when Ron Cummings and Rita Harmon of Granbury, Texas bid a whopping $8000Bz for an uncut version of the musician's newest CD (as yet unnamed) to be released in April of this year. The money from the two concerts was turned over to Lion President Flora Ancona at Saturday night's show and is to be used to build foundations and frames for island residents who have lost their homes.

Scavenger hunt winners (l to r) Ron Cummings, Rita Harmon, Patches & Kent Deshazo and Diane & Sam Peckham

   For years Susan and Jerry Jeff have been arranging trips to San Pedro for members of the Jerry Jeff Walker Fan Club, always providing them with private concerts. This year a decision was made by the group to utilize hotels and resorts around town so that fans were more easily able to mix and mingle with the locals and so as many businesses in the community would benefit as possible. Aside from the usual adventures tourists enjoy, a scavenger hunt was arranged for the fans with a reward of US$500 for the winning team. Masterminding this event with a list that included some extremely hard-to-find items was Dave Kelley of Hustler Enterprises. A few of the rarer finds: a Red Stripe beer bottle, a calendar dating before 1995, a US presidential electoral pin, an airplane ticket stub (over one year old), a Texas road map, a personalized e-mail from Tasmania and a whole bird egg (not chicken). One of the odder items on the list was an entire human tooth. Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker both agreed this was the best way for the fans to interact with the community. "These people come down here for fun, but they want to get to know people and give a little back at the same time. This got them to knock on doors from one end of the island to the other, and even found them visiting the local dumps!" Indeed, the local dump held the year-old airline ticket stub for the winning team who only missed one item - the Red Stripe beer bottle. Ingeniously, they devised their own bottle, complete with a red stripe down the label, but it was disqualified. The winning team consisted of Patches and Kent Deshazo, Diane and Sam Peckham, Rita Harmon and Ron Cummings (with a little help from others), who generously donated the money back to the community. It was estimated that the local economy received over $100,000US courtesy of Jerry Jeff's fans while on vacation.

    For over ten years, Jerry Jeff Walker has visited this island, finally deciding to build a home here. He and his wife's generosity to the community is not anything unique to this trip as his talents have sponsored many charitable events from 5-a-side teams to hospital fundraisers. "We don't come down here to flaunt our good fortune, we want to do our part," they commented. And their commitment to the locals is displayed in the many pieces of island art which adorn the Walker home.

   Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker, through this medium, would like to thank all their fans and everyone in the community who contributed to their good times on the island. "Special ėkudos' go out to Dave Kelley, Paola Fiore and the staff at Dockside for the wonderful effort and great service they provided," stated the couple.

    The residents of the island would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Walker for their continued support and generous use of his celebrity status in the promotion of Ambergris Caye. They only hope that someday soon the Walkers can return and truly just relax on La Isla Bonita.
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