Before there was a The Woody Foundation, there was a Lionfish Bash.
James “Woody” Beckham suffered a neck injury during a rugby match in January 2011 that rendered him a quadriplegic. He wanted to raise money to help others living with paralysis. Because Woody loved being on the water and fishing, family and friends came up with an idea for a fishing tournament.
Later that same year of Beckham’s injury the Lionfish Bash was born and hosted in Bimini, Bahamas. Six years later the original goal of trimming the invasive lionfish population and raising money for Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital remains.
The money raised is used by the hospital to purchase equipment and support programs that help patients regain their independence. As a result patients recoup upper and lower body strength and in some cases, even walk again.
The foundation has raised more than $1 million for various charities, and the Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital fundraising focus has yielded more than $120,000.
“I spent three months in Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital following my injury and understand how important it is to have quality equipment and programs to help patients get back on track,” Beckham said. “The first few months during someone’s recovery are critical. Proceeds from The Lionfish Bash change people’s lives, I’ve seen it happen.”
At this year’s “Bash,” as it’s affectionately called by veteran “Bashers,” more than $20,000 was raised and more than 70 lionfish were harvested. Twenty two boats spent the day on the water and 150 attended the dinner and the awards presentation at the Coral Reef Yacht Club.
Longtime friend of the Foundation, Veterans Ocean Adventures and their team took first place for most lionfish harvested, they also took the prize for largest lionfish.
The Frank Cooney Sr. Junior Angler Award went to Anthony Perez Jr. of Team Eric’s Outboard, who is a six-time sponsor of the event. Perez is a two-time winner of the prestigious award.
The weekend’s most coveted award showcasing brilliant skill and angler ability, the Smallest Lionfish Award went to Justin Miller of Miami.
“Fishing, diving and being on the water with friends and family is something I’ve enjoyed my entire life. We’ve been doing this for a long time and it never gets old. For us to be able to get together for a common cause and help others is special,” Beckham added. “We are so thankful for everyone’s support and are so proud to be able to give to Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital.”
The Woody Foundation hosts four major annual events, the Lobster Feast, Woody Golf Classic, Lionfish Bash and Woodystock, which will happen later this year, date and location to be announced.
For more information about The Woody Foundation, visit www.woodyfoundation.org.