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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Ely family visit contributions received, more sought

Following his tour of duty in Afghanistan and his letters to Anna Maria Island students, U.S. Army Maj. Rick Ely and his family will be welcomed to Anna Maria Island on June 7.

Ely will visit the Island for the first time with wife Joelle, daughter Kayla and son Alec, and hopefully meet with some of the students and families he has communicated with from Afghanistan.

A community welcome for the family honoring Ely will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 12, in the auditorium of Anna Maria Elementary School, thanks to arrangements made by AME Principal Kathy Hayes.

Local businesses and folks have offered accommodations and services to the family and Fantasy Travel of Bradenton is providing a travel package.

They'll fly into Tampa, where they will receive a rental car compliments of Paul and Pierrette Kelly, and first visit Orlando attractions.

The family will then stay at the Tortuga Inn June 7-11 compliments of owner David Teitelbaum - with weekend accommodations still needed. Longboat Limo has offered to drive Rick and Joelle to a romantic dinner donated by Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key.

The family will receive admission to Mote Marine Aquarium, including a behind scenes tour, and admission to Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary and a bay tour aboard the Peli-boat.

A brunch for the family has been offered by Chef Damon Presswood of Ooh La La!, including his favorite dish for kids of any age - "real French toast."

Other donations have included more than $200 cash, a banner for the welcome from Signs Made Here, dining certificates to Minnie's Beach Cafe, Paradise Bagel, Capalbo's, Beach City Market & Grill, the Chiles Group restaurants, Beach House, Sandbar and Mar Vista, Mama Lo's, the Old Salty Dog, certificates from Island Scooter Rentals and Bradenton Beach Boat Rentals, and a half-day fishing trip with Capt. Brian Kisluk of Out of Line charters.

Also donated is a family beach portrait by Jack Elka Photograhics.

Cash donations are being sought to offset the cost of other travel expenses.

Nancy Ambrose of The Islander newspaper and the Rev. Bill Grossman of Harvey Memorial Community Church can be contacted to make donations for the family's visit.

To contribute to Ely's visit, contact Ambrose at 518-4431 or Grossman at 224-8608, or stop by The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.