A record-breaking number of registered runners – 530 – signed up for the annual F.I.S.H. 10K/5K on Sanibel on December 2, 2023. Approximately 90 percent of the runners came from all over the state of Florida, but the race also drew participants from the UK and Germany, as well as 25 other states. The race began at 7:30am at the Sanibel Community House, this year with the addition of a 5K that started at 7:45am. Both courses followed a marked circuit around the island, returning to the Sanibel Community House for the finish line.
This year’s race marked the first in-person event in recent years. In 2020-2021 the organization offered a virtual only race due to COVID and canceled the 2022 event due to Hurricane Ian.
Immediately following the race, community partner The Sanibel Recreation Center held a kids’ ‘Reindeer Run’ and family fun day. Included was a hot cocoa bar, pizza/BBQ, pictures with Santa, a bounce house, and face painting.
The inaugural FISH Sound+Waves Music Festival at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa began at 5pm that same evening. The concert was performed on the beach followed by fireworks making Dec. 2 a day full of activities centered around the neighbors helping neighbors organization.
The race and festival committee, co-chaired by Diane Cortese and Leah Winkler, were pleased with the outcome of the day and with the runner participation and sponsor support. “We weren’t quite sure what to expect as many of us are still recovering from Hurricane Ian. The support from island businesses as sponsors was second-to-none, and we are so grateful for everyone’s support,” said Cortese. Cortese, a veteran committee member, notes many positive changes for the 2023 race including additional sponsor support and added activities to make the day a perfect island experience. Joining Cortese as co-chair was newcomer Leah Winkler. “Being new to the experience, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of FISH supporters and cooperation of the City, volunteers and community partners. It was a great learning experience, and I’m already looking forward to making 2024 bigger and better.”
This year’s race and festival was sponsored by a total of 85 local businesses, organizations and individuals at various levels. More than 120 volunteers signed up to help make the race another huge success.
F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of all people in Sanibel and Captiva Islands by neighbors helping neighbors with social services, education and assistance. Since Hurricane Ian, the organization has been offering long-term disaster recovery assistance in addition to programs that represent their four major pillars — – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands. Money raised during the race and festival helps fund all of their services including disaster recovery, emergency financial assistance, food pantry, children’s backpack food program, senior programs, temporary loan of health equipment and daily hot meals and more.
“We are extremely proud of everyone who has helped us with another successful event. We had a fantastic runner turnout this year and enormous support from sponsors,” said Maria Espinoza, Executive Director. “We would like to thank our committee members and TRC Race Management for their superb technical direction and assistance both before and during the race. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise the funds that will allow us to continue to provide a full range of human services and disaster recovery assistance to our neighbors. We couldn’t ask for better support from the City of Sanibel, police department, service organizations, and our sponsors and, notably, our great staff and volunteers who helped bring all of this together.”
Espinoza made special mention of the amazing finisher medals featuring the Sanibel lighthouse and the handcrafted age group awards that are sure to become collector’s items. Locals Rachel Pierce and Rachel Tritaik designed and assembled the age group awards as a way to honor the community and what the islands stand for. Shells used for these awards were found on Sanibel beaches and donated by the Sanibel Community House.
For more race results, please visit https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/146120#resultSetId-393577;perpage:100. For additional news and photos of the race along with a full list of sponsors, please visit https://www.fishofsancap.org/ and the organization’s social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter)