Gillnetter PFD fund hits $28K
The Richard Boyce Inflatable Suspenders Memorial Fund has raised more than $28,000 so far, exceeding the goal of $20,000, with donations still coming in from around the globe, organizer Randa Szymanski said this week.
Szymanski’s husband, Jim Szymanski, had the idea of raising money for the flotation devices in memory of friend and Haines gillnet fisherman Richard “Dick” Boyce. Boyce was presumed dead after falling off his boat July 4.
Randa used flyers and Facebook to spread the word. Locally, the fundraiser was advertised via flyers, Chilkat Valley News, KHNS, and word of mouth.
“But this is what’s really amazing,” Randa said. “Donations are coming in from all over the world,” including Australia and Hong Kong. “That’s the kind of outpouring we’ve had. It’s been incredible.”
They also received a check from a woman in Seattle who visited Haines a few years ago. She wandered down to the harbor, just checking out what was going on, and commercial fishermen getting ready to head out showed her around. Those fishermen made a lasting impression on her. The woman said that now, whenever she has fish, she thinks of those who go out and risk their lives for it.
Szymanski attributes much of the widespread outpouring of donations and support to “the power of the Internet.” Her online fundraising campaign has taken off with the help of social networking sites such as Facebook. “People shared it, shared it, and shared it. That’s how it spread.”
Alaska Public Radio, which picked up the story from KHNS, broadcast the story statewide. Pacific Fishing then picked it up, and the story will run in their September issue. “I think we struck a nerve there,” Randa said.
The first shipment of the inflatable suspender collars will arrive in two weeks. They will be embroidered, “In memory of Dick Boyce.” Randa said that since the suspenders are no longer being made, they are buying the last 176 of them in stock, as well as purchasing inflatable vests.
The first shipment of the embroidered vests will come the week after the suspenders arrive. The suspenders will go to Haines fishermen. “This was set up for the commercial fishermen of Haines. We want to make sure that they’re outfitted,” she said.
Money left over will go toward the harbor’s “Kids don’t float” program, which provides life jackets for boat passengers to borrow. “We thought maybe we could help upgrade the vests for the kids.”
Donations can be made to the Richard Boyce Memorial Fund at the Haines bank or by sending a check in the fund’s name to P.O. Box 418, Haines, AK 99827.