David Mock performs an intricate maneuver during last year’s Wakefest on the Flint River. This year’s event, to benefit Ty Christian West, will take place Saturday at Turner Landing Park. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Despite no charitable affiliation, two area residents are working to make a difference in the community by combining their passion of water sports with their philanthropic hearts through their annual Wakefest GA event held each summer.
This year’s Wakefest GA is benefiting local resident Ty Christian West, who was born with neuromuscular scoliosis and Down Syndrome.
According to Jamie Owens, who along with his cousin, Adam Gilbert, organizes Wakefest, the decision to use this year’s event to benefit West was an easy one to make, after he had gotten to know the young man.
“I met him around town and just fell in love with him,” Owens said. “Just his personality and everything. He’s amazing.”
In addition to being born with serious conditions West was also later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism and has endured numerous surgeries and procedures to help improve his life.
Those who know West say he is a happy child who continues to defy the odds and brings joy to those around him.
As West grows up, his medical needs will increase, so Owens and Gilbert are hoping Wakefest will provide some assistance to West and his family.
“Our goal for this year is $30,000,” said Owens. “I kind of view it as we’re not trying to save the world. We just want to help out and do something.”
Owens said it was Gilbert who conceived the idea of Wakefest as a way to raise funds for worthy causes while also getting to do something he enjoyed.
The first Wakefest was organized in 2009 and raised $1,500 for Ethan Blanchard. There was no event in 2010, but Gilbert picked back up in 2011 and 2012 and raised $5000 and $10,000 for Taylor Rumph each year. Last year’s event proved even more successful as the group raised $17,000 for Curt Poer.
“It’s grown every year and we’ve been able to raise more money,” Owens said. “This year we’re shooting for $30,000.”
To help increase the amount generated each year the event has grown to include the sale of t-shirts and koozies. There is also a raffle. This year the organizers are also staging an after dark concert at Chehaw animal park featuring Caylee Anna and Marty Evans. Tickets for the live music, which is being presented by Planet X Entertainment, are $10 and event participants get in free.
“This is the first time we’ve done another event so we have no idea what to expect,” Gilbert said.
Morgan Burnette, public relations coordinator for Chehaw, said the park was happy to lend a hand to the cause and thinks the event could spark the return of more live music events at the park as well as continue the park’s tradition of community involvement.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this host the concert,” said Burnette. “I hope the community takes the time to come out and enjoy it. It’s a good cause.”
Even though Wakefest 2014 will feature the concert, the main event as always is the wake boarding, something avid wake boarders Gilbert and Owens are excited about.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Gilbert. “I’ve been doing it for a few years now and Adam’s been doing it for a long time.”
Riders who come out to the event can register for the competition for $25, all of which will go to benefit West. competitors will be divided into different categories based on gender and age.
There will be different levels of competition including beginner, intermediate, advanced and outlaw, displaying different wake boarding skill levels.
Owens said that the boat that will be used for the wake boarding events will be furnished by Atlanta’s Watersports Central and their group Georgia Wakeboard Lessons will also be on hand.
The event is slated to start at roughly 8 a.m. and will run until all groups have had the opportunity to ride. The after concert at Chehaw is set to begin at 7 p.m. Anyone wanting more information about the event or interested in participating can pre-register at the group’s website www.wakefestga.com or contact Gilbert at (229) 886-6666.