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Stars & Stripes 2017 Tournament – From The Heart

Orange County businessWhile serving on the Orange County Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors nearly 22 years ago, Dick “Dicko” Gebhard had an inspiration: it was a way to have some fun while raising money for the organization. He suggested to fellow board members that they create a fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas.
It became Stars & Stripes.

STARS represent the kids
STRIPES represent the Striped Marlin

At the 10-year mark Dicko enlisted a group of his successful Orange County business friends to join the effort as Knights (Board of Directors). That reinvented the scope of the event to include sportfishing, golf, and music each year which has evolved into today’s huge undertaking.
Stars & Stripes tournamentThat Stars & Stripes tournament “inspiration” with the Knights’ guidance over the past 21 years has turned into more than $26 million by the conclusion of the 21st annual event for charities on both sides of the border.

The fishing tournament inspiration grew and ultimately a spa day was added for those who were not anglers. It required an army of volunteers and several support companies including Kapture Vision and The Gavel Group and Orange County Golf Events, as well as the current Board of Directors aka the Knights: Gebhard, Al Baldwin, Jeff Cunningham, Charles Ruck, Tim Ryan, Erik Anderson, Larry Kirkenslager, and the newest member, Z. Zadro.

Fishing eventsWith the support of donated boats, guides, products for auction, entertainers and sponsors, it makes a difference in the lives of children in all walks of life … living up to Stars & Stripes’ motto: “It’s all about the kids!”

Few tournaments can match the level of enthusiasm or the far-reaching impact of the event; it has surpassed everyone’s wildest dreams, earning the admiration of many while attracting a sold-out group of participants.Stars & Stripes Arrival

For most, the 2017 Stars & Stripes began with tequila or cerveza at Jorge TellezFisherman’s Landing Bar, just outside the airport exit followed by a transfer to the Hilton Los Cabos Beach Resort overlooking the Sea of Cortez.

Stars & Stripes musicMariachi music and a festive atmosphere greeted the guests at the hotel during registration with sign-ups for the fishing or golf tournaments on Friday and Saturday. Concurrently, T-shirts and S & S hats were distributed … with margaritas by the bucket full.

Old-timers greeted and newcomers with equal enthusiasm, mingling in the open air lobby while photographers maneuvered throughout the crowd looking for the right shot.

The Gold Teams – comprised of those who had contributed extra time and money – along with special guests, were loaded in air-conditioned vans and transported in less than 10 minutes from the Hilton for the “Dine under the Rock N’ Stars” … a private concert with Grammy Award-winning artist Kenny Loggins.
Stars & Stripes concert Kenny Loggins.Party goers were astounded as they stepped out onto the rough Baja desert sand where they were greeted by dancers in Aztec regalia accentuated by haunting ancient music and chants where the huge canyon with rocks on each side provided the perfect backdrop.
Stars & Stripes authentic dancesLater, during cocktail hour the dancers awed everyone with authentic dances.

Stars & Stripes Painted Tilles

Local painter, Francisco Javier Nava, hand-painted tiles for the guests, while others gathered at an ornate wooden bar before moving to dinner tables in front of the full-sized rock stage.

As dusk turned to dark, the craggy rock walls gleamed in artistic lighting; Stars & Stripes MC Shawn Parr uttered an expressive, “Wow – Wow -WOW!

We welcome attendees to this beautiful setting. Congratulations to you and your team, Dicko! It’s breathtaking and it’s hard to believe that your team created this extraordinary venue in only three days.”
Stars & Stripes Music Brand

Loggins and his band provided an inspired performance late into the night.

By Thursday evening, more than 700 attendees, along with their families and friends, had filled the Hilton.
Stars & Stripes AuctionBefore a “Día de Los Muertos” themed buffet, the silent auction was set around the huge eerily-decorated pool area.

Early Friday morning, 46 angling teams were ready for the early flare gun start from the iconic Chileno Bay.

Stars & Stripes AnglarsDazzled by  Dana Bowman’s dramatic prelude to flare start that was a huge crowd pleaser for all of the tournament boats. The golf teams left a bit later for some of the famous Los Cabos courses.

Weather was ideal for the golfers, but the grouchy sea and plunging sea temps caused 175-pound yellowfin tunafishing to be less than wide open – the day’s highlight was a 175-pound yellowfin tuna landed aboard “Fish Cabo” plus a few dorado brought to the scale at Chileno Bay along with a handful of released striped marlin.
Stars & Stripes Retro Beach PartyFriday evening brought another themed Studio 54 “Retro Beach Party” in front of the hotel beside the Sea of Cortez, which also provided the backdrop for the live auction, the silent auction and the buffet dinner, after which the “Rockstar Collective” entertained everyone.

Saturday morning the seas were calm as hopeful anglers headed out for the final day. The wind that had hampered fishing the first day had moved inland over a few of the golf courses, adding an unexpected degree of difficulty for some … and an advantage for others.

Stars & Stripes Beach PartyOver 150 attendees opted for the lavish annual “Beach Party” held at a private Beach House.

Stars & Stripes GolfBy the end of that last day, both the sportfishing and golfing competitors were buzzing; there were notable catches (wahoo, dorado plus more billfish releases) by the anglers and an unusual hole-in-one by a golfer.

Stars & Stripes Award Ceremony Saturday evening the theme was nautical with a pirate flair. The evening began with the awards presented to the winners of both the sportfishing and golfing tournaments.

Representatives of each of the Children’s Charities supported by Stars & Stripes shared their successes and accomplishments in their respective areas over the past year.

This was followed by an opportunity for the group to pledge sums to the overall effort … a record $250,000 which was raised in less than half an hour.

Stars & Stripes organizersThe Knights of the organization, led by Gebhart, announced the overall $3.1 million total for the 2017 event.

Stars & Stripes Kelly Hansen of “Foreigner” and Mickey Thomas of “Jefferson Starship

Parr then introduced Kelly Hansen of “Foreigner” and Mickey Thomas of “Jefferson Starship” who entertained well into the night.
Attendees enjoyed the festivities along with various activities while giving generously throughout the tournament. This is what Stars & Stripes is truly all about … exhibiting its influence in many different ways.

The Plasticos Foundation team spent their time on their annual surgical mission to Cabo San Lucas partnering with a local medical team at the General Hospital.
Stars & Stripes surgical missionMost of the reconstructive surgeries were for burn victims, cleft palates along with breast reconstructions for post-cancer mastectomy patients by Doctors Juan Chavez, Larry Nichter, MD, Jed Horowitz, MD, Vinod Kothapa; and Jourdan Dunaway, Joanne Horowitz, Yanling Song, Olyvia Weston and Katherine Meredith.

Stars & Stripes charity
Olyvia Weston, a pre-med student at the University of Idaho, confided that having the opportunity to attend and work shoulder to shoulder with doctors sharing their knowledge and skills under these conditions reaffirmed her burning desire to continue to pursue a career in medicine. “Being in the OR and learning from the doctors, seeing how the patients’ lives were changed during the 16 breast reconstructions for women who couldn’t afford the operation plus the one woman in her 30s who had never dated because of her disfigurement, as a result to having breast cancer, and being disfigured . The smiles showed their appreciation,” said Weston.

Stars & Stripes medical training Doctors Larry Nichter, Jed Horwitz and the anesthesiologist from India, Juan Chavez, trained the local medical teams to become independent.

Besides medical and surgical services, the team contributed several thousand dollars of supplies and an anesthesiology machine to allow the team to continue throughout the year in this important service to the community that had not been available in the past.
Stars & Stripes distribute fishAnother project by Team Members Bekah Christine and Missy Barth, along with Rebecca Ehrenberg, organized a group to distribute all of the fresh fish caught during the fishing tournament. On Sunday morning, that team delivered fish to “La Ballena” Kitchen – Feeding Los Cabos Kids located in Colonia Real Unidad. Ehrenberg confided, “The kitchen feeds around 60 kids Monday – Friday and on Saturday about 100. The fish delivered would feed the children for about two months.”

Said team member Warren Low, “It was the HIGHLIGHT of the week for our team!” He added, “That was a great idea and let’s do even more next year! Bravo to Becca for making it happen!

Thanks ladies!! We must do this every year!”

Abriendo Corazones / Opening Hearts

Approximately five years ago, arrangements were made to send kids from La Paz to Omaha Children’s Hospital for open heart surgery. The program was less than successful due to very expensive U.S. hospital costs, travel expenses, and stress on the patients.
Dr. Jim Hammel, the pediatric surgeon in Omaha, decided a better solution was to bring his surgical team, using their personal vacation time, with donations covering their travel expenses, and take their equipment twice a year to the Hospital Salvatierra in La Paz and perform the surgeries there. This would allow them to more efficiently perform surgeries on additional patients.

During the past four years, Dr. Hammel has performed more than 100 open heart surgeries on kids in La Paz. He has also recruited and trained local surgeons; with necessary equipment acquired through donations.
Part of the program has also been to establish a catheter lab in which local surgeons can perform non-invasive heart procedures on kids. In order to get the lab certified, equipment had to be purchased and procedures performed.

According to officials, “Stars & Stripes provided a very generous donation to this effort last year resulting in certification by the Mexican government which will allow future funding from Federal sources.”

Being able to perform the catheter procedures also takes some of the pressure off of the new local surgeons who do not yet have a lot of experience and are still training with Dr. Hammel.

Dr. Hammel has established a 501(c) 3 charity, Abriendo Corazones/Opening Hearts or ACOH, to continue funding surgical trips and provide surgical necessities not always available in Mexico when required.
stars and stripes Bikes to distribute Stars & Stripes also arranged to have 100 bicycles distributed to children in Cabo San Lucas.
Stars & Stripes donor
In addition, with the help of an anonymous Stars & Stripes donor, 50 fishing rods were purchased which will be used in a special kids’ fishing tournament for the families of the boat crews, captains and deckhands, who participated in this year’s Stars & Stripes fishing tournament. The kids’ fishing tournament will be held on El Día de los Niño’s, a tradition that began in Mexico in 1925 and will be celebrated April 30, 2018.

Stars & Stripes’ remarkable success is that the “It’s all about the kids!” vision is universally understood and accepted on both sides of the border, allowing everyone to join in the fun while contributing to a number of different worthwhile children and family-oriented charities.

There are also charities on the California side of the border: For more information see, Click Here 

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Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world records and in his first year as a member of the Tuna Club of Avalon, he received more angling awards than any other first-year member in the club's 109-year history. He's been involved with many California angling clubs and is the Baja California Representative for the International Game Fish Association. 
Gary's a conservationist as well as a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater fly-fishing, hundreds of his articles and photographs have appeared in publications around the world. Graham has devoted his life to finding new fisheries and developing new techniques — all of which he shares through his guiding, speaking, photography and writing.