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Sailing is a big part of the lives of the people of Norfolk, Virginia. So it's only natural that sailing finds its way into the residents' philanthropic ventures. And that's exactly what the community does each year during the Little Creek Regatta.
The Little Creek Regatta is a unique maritime event that combines sailing, power boating and fishing into a fun-filled weekend for the participants and a fantastic fund-raising event for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. In the five years the event has benefited St. Jude, more than $600,000 has been raised.
The regatta was started by Norfolk resident Di (pronounced Dye) Ricks. Her father was suffering from cancer and Ricks wanted to do something. "You feel helpless, like there is nothing really you can do to cure it," she says. "I decided to see if I can raise money to help fight it." So Ricks conceived the idea of a sailboat race to fight cancer. It would be two years before Ricks would see her dream become reality.
In 1996, Ricks' father lost his battle with cancer. That year also marked the first Little Creek Regatta event. Twenty-seven boats participated in the race and raised $6,000. But slowly, word about the event began to spread. And each year, more and more people participated.
By 2001, Ricks had decided that her event would benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. During that year she was deciding, she met a little girl named Suzie Pavlat. Suzie was 11 years old and had been fighting cancer since she was three. She had an aggressive cancer called neuroblastoma. On August 12, 2001, Suzie lost her valiant fight against the disease. August 12 was the first day of the Little Creek Regatta held for the benefit of St. Jude, where Suzie had spent much of her life. Ricks was saddened by the loss of Suzie, and it reinforced her decision to have the regatta event benefit St. Jude.
The Bay Point Marina was the site again for the 2005 regatta on August 6-7, when more than 1,000 marine enthusiasts raised in excess of $162,000 for St. Jude.
Ricks attributes the success of the event to the enthusiasm of the community and the event's sponsors, including 1st Atlas Mortgage Company, Colonial Webb Contractors and Ainslie Widener. Vinings Marine Group hosted the event and Virginia Diner provided the food and refreshments.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would grow to what it is today," Ricks says. "I truly believe that God wanted this to happen."
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