PUNTA GORDA — Michael Douglas of the Southwest Florida Mopar car club called Charlotte County Community Services recently to see if they could team up to hold a charity event at South County Regional Park.
The answer came immediately. County staffers were hoping to participate in an event to fund scholarships for underprivileged kids to attend the county’s Kids Camp Connection, a summer camp program that serves some 600 kids, said Michael Koenig, community services resources director.
And the Spectacular Family Adventure event was held in the park Saturday as a result.
“The conversation took about two minutes,” Koenig recalled. “What you see here is truly a partnership with groups we already work with regularly.”
He was referring to a dozen other community groups and vendors that participated. The event included demonstrations by the Punta Gorda Police Department’s motorcycle unit, the Skydive Southwest Florida club, and local radio-controlled airplane and sailboat clubs. A car show was provided by the Mopar, Peace River and Calusa Jeepers car clubs.
With several other major events happening at the same time elsewhere in the city, attendance was sparse at least early on during the event. However organizers said they weren’t expecting a major crowd for what was the park’s first major community event. Several said, however, that they expect to make the event an annual one.
Douglas said he was thrilled to offer his club’s services to help kids go to summer camp. He cited the “difficult economic times” for some local families.
“Our club’s mission is to help underprivileged kids and the homeless,” he pointed out. “We’re here to put on car shows for any (community) request.”
He also said the other groups he solicited to participate “didn’t hesitate.” Those included the Charlotte Radio Control Society, which flew one-quarter-scale model airplanes at one of the park’s baseball fields.
“The airplanes attract people,” said club president Dennis Fortunato.
The club normally flies its planes on a city-owned field near the Shell Creek water plant.
“So it’s just giving back to the community that gives so much to us,” Fortunato said.
“And it’s fun,” added club board member Chris Hallinan.
Ed and Kristyn Dobbins and their 10-year-old daughter Summer came from Fort Myers to the event, primarily to see the skydiving demonstration. Kristyn, a student pilot, said she’s interested in trying the sport.
At the skydive club’s booth, the Dobbinses heard from club member Trish Dempster about safety precautions and the thrill of parachuting. Dempster said certified skydivers must have their backup parachutes inspected by a professional from groups such as the U.S. Parachute Association several times per year.
Dempster called skydiving “a stress-reliever.”
“It’s unbelievably peaceful,” she said. “As soon as you get out of the plane, it’s pure bliss.”
Kristyn said she spent 13 years working in emergency services in Connecticut before becoming a stay-at-home mom. So she enjoys challenges.
“(Flying a plane is) just not sufficient,” she said. “I need more adrenaline.”
Her husband was asked for his thoughts about his wife’s skydiving interest.
“God bless her,” Ed said. “I think it’s good; whatever she needs to do. A happy wife is a happy wife.”