Tag Archives: 07-23-2014

‘Suspicious death’ follows fight at Passage Key

The July 16 death of Pamela Carter Doster, 45, of Pasco County, is being investigated as “suspicious.”

Michael Doster, husband of the victim, placed a call to 911 July 13 to report his wife missing, and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Pinellas County authorities began a search.

MCSO Detective Sgt. John Kenney said the woman was rescued by a marine patrol unit after Pinellas County aviation authorities located her around 10 p.m. July 13 on Passage Key, about a half-mile north of Bean Point on Anna Maria Island.

She was found wearing only a life jacket and taken to the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria where, in an interview with MCSO deputies, she told them her husband, Michael Doster, 50, also of Pasco County, had forced her off a Sea-Doo four times earlier that evening by pulling her hair and pushing her into the water. She said she hit her head on the Sea-Doo.

Law enforcement indicated both Pamela and Michael Doster, age 50, were under the influence of alcohol.

The husband was arrested for domestic battery and released from custody July 15 after posting a $5,000 bond.

Following her interview with the deputies, Pamela Doster was taken to a Blake Medical Center. She was discharged and stayed in a women’s shelter overnight and later returned to Blake, where she died the morning of July 16, Kenney said.

Kenney said her death is “suspicious” and, on July 21, he said it’s being treated as a “possible homicide.”

“Following the autopsy report, we have started our investigation to determine if this warrants classification as a homicide,” Kenney said.

Kenney declined to give details of the autopsy report, but The Islander learned from another source that Pamela Doster died from internal bleeding of the brain that could not be controlled.

Law enforcement is looking in particular for a man who was alleged to have sexual relations with Michael Doster at Passage Key on the day of the incident.

Passage Key was a designated wildlife refuge before it eroded and disappeared after a tropical storm passed nearby several years ago. A sandbar that formed in the same location is known to be frequented by bay-area nudists. It can only be reached by boat.

Kenney urged anyone with information about the watercraft incident or anyone who had contact that day with the Dosters to contact him at 941-747-3011, ext. 2216.

Anna Maria seeks new revenue sources, lower taxes

It’s time to think out-of-the-box about revenues, Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn told commissioners at their July 16 budget discussion.

The major revenue stream for the city is ad valorem taxes, the mayor said, but that and the city’s other revenue sources are not enough to accomplish what’s needed in the city.

And ad valorem taxes place an unfair burden on city residents to pay for services and improvements that everyone — including visitors and part-time residents — enjoys, the mayor noted.

SueLynn said she asked city clerk Diane Percycoe to call the Florida League of Cities for information on revenue streams.

Percycoe said the league’s revenue expert, Ken Small, told her one major step for the city is to take a hard look at reinstating the occupational license tax.

The city imposed the business tax until November 2003, when city attorney Jim Dye advised commissioners that the 1995 commission had missed a state deadline to raise the tax, although it had been back-dated and approved.

As a result, the city was ordered to halt collections and cease the occupational licenses.

Dye, who was not at the work session, has said previously the city can reinstate occupational licensing if it adopts the tax rate from 1971.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said it’s time to look a lot harder at putting the tax back on the books.

“Times have changed,” he said. Even if the city adds only $20,000 to its revenue from an occupational tax, that’s a bonus, he said.

Webb and Commissioner Dale Woodland said they remember when they had to pay the tax to the city because they worked out of their homes.

Now, with an estimated 600-plus vacation rentals in the city, an annual occupational license tax of $20-30 could generate more than $30,000, Webb said.

He added that nearly every Florida government jurisdiction has an occupational license tax. After reading the Florida statute on the tax, Webb said he’s “positive there is a way we can bring this back.”

Small suggested other sources of revenue, such as increasing the local services communications tax.

Anna Maria’s local services communications tax is 5.7 percent, Percycoe said, and she’s budgeted $94,000 in revenue from that tax for the coming fiscal year. The maximum rate for the tax set by the state is 9.5 percent.

Webb said he really didn’t like increasing the taxes homesteaded residents pay, but Percycoe noted vacation rental properties have telephone, Internet and cable television service. And vacation home property owners pay taxes, too.

“Those would be hit harder than homesteaded properties” by the communications tax, she said.

Other suggestions from Small to increase revenue were to implement a tax on propane and natural gas, increasing the utility tax on electricity and water, raising stormwater fees and placing an impact fee on new construction.

Commissioner Carol Carter agreed to head a volunteer committee to research possible new or increased revenue sources and to invite Small to make a presentation to the commission.

Carter said she’s looking for three residents to volunteer for the committee and anyone interested should contact city hall.

SueLynn planned to ask Dye to update his research on the occupational license tax.

Most of the potential new revenue streams could not be implemented in time for the Oct. 1 start of the 2014-15 fiscal year, Webb said. However, if the city resumes the occupational license tax and handles collections, not the county, the tax could begin on adoption.

Building official Bob Welch said that while there’s not a lot of vacant land left for new construction, remodeling in the city has increased significantly in recent years. He raised the revenue estimate for building permits from $400,000 to $440,000.

Percycoe raised estimates on other projections for revenue, such as parking fines and variances, after reviewing them with staff. She projected the increases to be $75,000.

She removed the estimated $2,500 per month in revenue from the operation of the planned cell tower, but kept the $350,000 lump-sum payment due the city from Florida Tower Partners on completing the cell tower in the budget. She said she’d rather wait until the monthly revenue is a reality to budget income and spending.

Percycoe said she and city treasurer Maggie Martinez will have more exact figures on new or increased revenue streams for the July 23 budget work session.

For commissioners, however, the major drive for the proposed $3.38 budget is to lower the current 2.05 millage rate.

Percycoe said the rollback rate is 1.8685. The rollback rate is the millage needed to generate the same amount of revenue as the 2013-14 budget. Any rate above the rollback is considered a tax increase.

The rollback rate declined because revenue from taxable property increased, Percycoe said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland noted that retaining the 2.05 millage rate is the same as increasing taxes for residents.

If a homeowner’s property value increased and the millage rate remains at 2.05, that owner still would pay more in taxes, even though the millage rate didn’t go up, he explained.

“I really think we need to lower the millage. I can see that an increase in revenues, such as $75,000, will allow us to lower taxes. We need to do something for our residents,” Woodland said.

Webb agreed, saying he was “not excited about tax increases for our residents.”

Other commissioners agreed that a lower millage rate might be possible if revenues meet the forecast of Percycoe and Martinez.

Commissioners will review the line item expenses July 23, as new revenue figures become available.

Without revising revenue, the proposed budget represents an increase in spending of 10.88 percent.

Percycoe reminded commissioners that only 11 percent of a property owner’s ad valorem tax is returned to the city as revenue.

The remainder goes to Manatee County government, the school district, Southwest Florida Water Management District, West Manatee Fire Rescue, West Coast Inland Navigation District, mosquito control and various government entities and assessments.

Millage rate

An ad valorem millage rate is the percentage of the taxable value of a property that the owner pays in annual property taxes.

With a millage rate of 2.05, an Anna Maria homeowner with a house valued for tax purposes at $500,000 would pay $1,025 in property taxes for one year. If the city adopts the rollback rate of 1.8685, that property owner would pay $934.25.

Traffic drives AMICCO off island

While it claims to be the “gem of the island,” it might soon be more appropriate to refer to the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra as an area gem.

Heavy traffic on the island in the months of February and March has prompted the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra to move some of its seasonal performances off the island.

AMICCO announced the schedule change in its newsletter, which was sent July 13 to Holmes Beach Commissioners Jean Peelen and Marvin Grossman via email from residents Alex and Ruth Richardson.

The Richardsons’ email restated the content of AMICCO’s newsletter to fans and asked the commissioners to forward the news to other island officials.

“An enormous problem we face for the future is the ever-growing traffic problem on the island in February and March,” the newsletter said. “This solution is a direct response to the many requests to address traffic issues. You spoke about driving frustrations, we listened.”

Jeanie Pickwick, executive director of AMICCO, said AMICCO has a duty to perform concerts for its patrons and subscribers, “one which we take very seriously. The well-known slogan, ‘the show must go on,’ is difficult to achieve when concertgoers and musicians are unable to reach the concert hall.”

AMICCO’s December 2014 and January 2015 concerts will remain at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, but, as stated in the newsletter, their performances will be “leaping off the island” in February and March.

AMICCO’s off-island venue will be Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road, Bradenton.

Pickwick said the off-island performances in 2015 are being offered “on a trial basis.”

She said that “when coming onto the island for shopping, visiting or a great day at the beach, we are not as anxious about the delay, but when trying to get to a 2 p.m. concert start, a lengthy delay is a problem.”

AMICCO was founded in 1992 and has performed its concerts mostly in the sanctuary of Crosspointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach. It is made up of professional and volunteer musicians, performing four concerts a year. An outdoor concert added at Coquina Beach this year — Symphony in the Sand — is scheduled to repeat next year.

Part of its mission statement includes fostering musical development of youth in the community, which resulted in a young-artist competition in Manatee and Sarasota counties for eight years. The winner then performs at a concert with AMICCO.

“AMICCO will continue to support and be a cultural mainstay of the island. We have proven our community support again and again by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other island nonprofits for the benefit and continued cultural enrichment of island residents and visitors. Anna Maria Island is our home,” said Pickwick.

Radio active: Turtle watch reaches out on airwaves

The Anna Maria Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring has taken to the airwaves with the Florida Folk Show on public radio.

AMITW executive director Suzi Fox’s voice could be heard July 12 alongside the voices of 88.5 WMNF’s Florida Folk Show’s hosts Ronny Elliott, Pete Gallagher and Gary Horrell. Fox’s appearance on the show aligned with the radio station’s summer fund drive.

“The Florida Folk Show helps educate all of southwest and Central Florida about environmental issues that touch the very hearts of Florida visitors and residents,” Fox said. “The DJs reach out and tell the real story of Florida.”

Fox’s appearance on the Florida Folk Show is her second. She also participated in its February fund drive. So far, she has logged five hours of airtime. However, for AMITW the cameo on public radio is all about exposure and education.

Callers can adopt nests for $100. The station is paying for the materials — a plaque that is staked with the nest throughout nesting season, and given to the adopter after it hatches — and the not-for-profit station keeps the funds.

“Many other shows mention our adoption packages. That is a huge return for us,” said Fox. “When we chose to donate adopt-a-nest packages we had no idea that those adopters had never even heard of us. They not only come frequently to visit their nests on the beach but keep in email contact. Many plan on supporting our nesting program in the upcoming years.”

So far, nearly 20 people have adopted nests through the radio station, including the Florida Folk Show hosts and Rob Lorei, a founding member and news director for WMNF.

Fox said AMITW has allowed other organizations in the past to adopt out nests including the local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and a few Manatee County schools.

Fox said WMNF and the Florida Folk Show are widely followed by many AMITW volunteers. The Florida Folk Show holds interviews, host artists and reports on environmental news in the Tampa Bay area. Fox hooked up with the show after attending some local, environmental events.

“I heard Rob (Lorei) interview Kent Bailey a few years back. It started us looking into some questionable development of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve and the Manatee County side of the Skyway Bridge. I panicked because this area is a nursery for juvenile green turtles and, during that time, there was a bunch of phone calls and meetups,” she said. “I don’t think they realized what we really do over here on Anna Maria Island until then. We all just fell in like with each other.”

The Florida Folk Show broadcasts on 88.5 FM 9 a.m. on Saturdays and showcases Florida folk musicians.

Local youth, friends suffer rare fish poisoning in Bahamas

A dream visit to a Caribbean island over the July 4 weekend turned into a nightmare for a local family and family friend.

A successful day of reef fishing meant dinner to 15-year-old Austin Goncalves and 14-year-old Marlin Ellis.

However, unknown to them, the fish they caught while pole-spearing near the shore, a porgie and mutton snapper, carried ciguatera poisoning and dining on the fish sent both boys, as well as Goncalves’ mother, Karen, and her companion to the hospital.

The group’s weeklong trip to a timeshare in the Bahamas quickly turned from paddleboard tours and dive adventures to a horrific ordeal in a Nassau hospital.

According to Marianne Norman-Ellis, Marlin’s mother, the boys caught the fish on a reef near the resort. Norman-Ellis works at Mike Norman Realty — owned by her father — in Holmes Beach and co-owns Blue Marlin restaurant in Bradenton Beach with husband Adam Ellis.

Norman-Ellis received the news stateside of the group’s sudden illness in a short phone call from Karen Goncalves, her speech slurred from the neurological effects of the marine microalgae that causes ciguatera poisoning.

“We’re in the hospital. You need to come,” she said to Norman-Ellis before the phone cut off.

A look back at the events:


June 28: departure

Karen Goncalves, her boyfriend, Marlin and Austin headed to the airport with bags packed. Destination: the Bahamas.

Austin, who works bussing tables at the Blue Marlin, is an avid fisher, diver and boater. He invited his friend Marlin along on the trip to his mother’s timeshare resort.


June 29: boys pull in a big catch

Marlin and Austin went free-diving on a reef off the beach fronting their resort. They caught huge fish — a porgie twice the size of any found in Florida and a 30-pound mutton snapper.

The boys’ trophy fish became dinner, but would soon prove to be less of a bragging rite.

“I think part of the reason they got so sick is because how old and big the fish were,” said Norman-Ellis.

She said in addition to the age and size of the fish, the location of the catch also contributed to their levels of ciguatera. The microalgae that causes ciguatera lives in the reef, and fish that live exclusively in the reef area and eat their prey from among the reef-dwellers, unlike fish that travel, contain have higher levels of the toxin.

The group cooked the fish for dinner, unaware of the tasteless, odorless toxin they were about to consume. They ate their catch at two meals before they felt the poison’s effects.

As the toxin worked its way into their systems, they continued their vacation plans, going on dive trips and paddleboard tours around the Caribbean paradise.

Marlin was the first to get sick. Norman-Ellis said she spoke to her son and both assumed he was seasick. As time passed, it became clear Marlin’s illness was not seasickness.


July 3: everyone is rushed to the nearest hospital

Norman-Ellis received a text message from her son that read: “We can’t stop throwing up.”

Marlin’s illness escalated and the rest of the party soon also became violently ill.

Ciguatera can cause nausea, vomiting and neurologic symptoms, including tingling fingers and toes, confusion and hallucinations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ciguatera also can cause cold things to feel hot and the reverse. The toxin affects individuals differently and can be difficult to diagnose.

Norman-Ellis said Karen Goncalves remembered calling the front desk at the resort, but she didn’t recall what happened after the phone call.

Staff at the resort called an ambulance for the four guests. Marlin and Karen Goncalves’ boyfriend experienced violent hallucinations, and Austin and his mom were unconscious by the time the ambulance arrived to the timeshare. Austin was in bad shape, unable to maintain consciousness and suffering from seizures.

They were taken to a public hospital where the staff was unable to ascertain any information from them due to their conditions. Hospital staff assumed they either suffered from food poisoning or they were on drugs.


July 4: a confused phone call

About noon, Karen Goncalves made her short, confused phone call to Norman-Ellis.

“Her speech was slurred. All she said was they were at the hospital and I needed to come. She didn’t even say what hospital,” said Norman-Ellis.

Norman-Ellis and her husband bought plane tickets departing for the Bahamas from Miami that day.

Norman-Ellis was able to find out what hospital they were taken to, but was having difficulty getting directly in touch with anyone in the group.

“All they kept telling me was ‘they are stable’ and wouldn’t let me speak to them,” she said.

She contacted the U.S. Embassy and was able to speak to a doctor at the hospital. As she waited for her flight to board at the Miami airport, the doctor told her to arrive quickly: “It’s not likely they’ll make it.”

Norman-Ellis and her husband went straight from the Nassau airport to the hospital. When she arrived, Austin and Karen Goncalves were still unconscious and her son was restrained in a hospital bed. He had been experiencing “horrific hallucinations” and was reacting violently to hospital staff, requiring them to restrain him.


July 5: an air ambulance takes them stateside

“We were at the hospital for eight hours waiting for the ambulance,” Norman-Ellis said.

Mike Norman, Marlin’s grandfather, arranged for REVA, a private international air-ambulance service, to take the group to a Miami hospital. Each flight carried only one patient, and cost $10,000.

Norman-Ellis was able to gain her son’s release from the Nassau hospital, but not the rest of the group because they are not family members. Meanwhile, a friend of Norman-Ellis was able to contact Austin’s sister through Facebook, and she flew to the Bahamas to release her mother and brother. A release for the companion proved to be more difficult, but he too was eventually flown to the Miami hospital.

Marlin arrived at Jackson Memorial in Miami at 6 a.m. Austin was brought to the Miami hospital shortly after Marlin and the ambulance returned immediately to get his mother and her companion.



Marlin spent three days in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial before being relocated to the teen unit. Austin spent several days longer on life-support before he was relocated to the teen unit, where he now is undergoing speech, physical and occupational therapy.

Austin, as of July 18, was still in the hospital.

Marlin was the first to recover and return home, but was told to take precautions for three weeks following his release. He must avoid eating seafood, and also chicken and pork that may have consumed seafood.

He had no further symptoms of ciguatera after his release from the hospital.

According to the CDC, ciguatera poisoning is caused by eating fish that contain toxins produced by the marine microalgae called Gambierdiscus toxicus. It has no cure. However, the symptoms are treated and usually go away in days or weeks, although some symptoms can remain for years.

Norman-Ellis has now learned that when traveling to a foreign country, it’s important to know the locations of hospitals. She later learned there was a hospital in Nassau two blocks away that may have provided more intensive care than the public hospital where the group was taken.

The ciguatera poisoning was not diagnosed until they reached the hospital in Miami.

Another important thing she said she learned from the experience: Don’t eat fish larger than a forearm that is caught in the Caribbean.


Benefit set for Austin’s recovery from poisoning

The Blue Marlin and the Drift-In on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach will co-host a benefit for Austin Goncalves, 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

Austin was poisoned by a fish with ciguatera, a microalgae infecting the fish he caught and ate while on vacation in the Bahamas with his family.

He was flown to a Miami hospital from the Bahamas, where he continues to receive medical attention.

For more information, contact Jill Capparelli at 941-526-6641.

Donations also can be made online at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/florida-teen-diver-down-needs-your-help/204714.

Holmes Beach code board grants stay to tree house owners

Circuit judge to Holmes Beach: shake hands and say you’re sorry.

A ruling in March regarding daily fines imposed by the city on what has become an infamous tree house in Holmes Beach required the code enforcement board to grant its owners a stay and send them a letter.

Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan issued an opinion in March halting the city-imposed daily fines on tree house owners Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran during their appeal.

The tree house was constructed without permits on the beachfront at Hazen’s and Trans’s home and rental accommodations known as Angelinos Sea Lodge at 103 29th St.

Code enforcement board attorney Michael Connolly told board members July 17 that the court’s March ruling requires the board to grant Hazen and Tran the stay, and to send a letter notifying the couple that the stay had been granted.

Connolly read the opinion which, except in cases of special circumstances, granted the stay. In the case between the city and the tree house owners, neither party is harmed by the stay and the daily fines infringe on the owners’ appellate rights.

No public hearing was required of the board because the stay was court-ordered, said Connolly. He prepared the letter notifying Hazen and Tran that the board had granted the stay and had board chair Andy Sheridan sign it during the July 17 meeting.

The code enforcement board imposed the fine of $100 a day beginning Sept. 13, 2013, and until such time the tree house is brought into compliance with city and state regulations.

Hazen and Tran have been tangled in a dispute with the city since the first letter of violation was sent to the couple by the city April 5, 2013.

In July 2013, the code enforcement board filed a final administrative order, finding the property owners in violation of the city building codes.

The city found the tree house — which began construction in April 2011 — to be in violation of several city and state codes and to have been built without permits. The violations include the structure being built within the setback for the erosion control line, which is prohibited by state law.

Dunnigan’s order to halt the fine during the appeals process is the latest in the legal battle, responding to Hazen and Tran’s filed petition for writ of certiorari, or motion for review of stay order, filed last October.

The couple initially filed with the code enforcement board to have the fines halted during the appeal, but were denied. The petition essentially appealed the board’s decision, which was overturned by Dunnigan.

Still pending are two cases headed by the city declaring the couple’s petition initiative null and void, and seeking a declaratory judgment that would essentially end the case.

The couple’s appeal of the code enforcement board’s findings and an appeal of the city’s final administrative order to remove the structure or rectify its non-compliant status also awaits further action in court.

Connolly advised board members the fines could be reinstated by the board, depending on the outcome of the appeal.

The city is represented by attorneys Jim Dye and Patricia Petruff of Dye, Deitrich, Petruff and St. Paul, P.L., of Bradenton. Petruff is the attorney of record for the city.

Island police equipped to identify lost dogs

Pets lost on the island may find an easier way home thanks to a local veterinarian who has equipped local law enforcement officers with microchip readers.

Instead of taking the long way home, through Manatee County Animal Services, costing pet owners a base fee of $100 or $180 if the pet is not spayed or neutered, local law enforcement officers can scan microchipped pets and trace the identity of the owner.

Dr. Bill Bystrom, veterinarian/owner of Island Animal Clinic, 5343 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, donated three microchip readers, one to each island law enforcement department.

Sgt. Paul Davis of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale met with Bystrom at the clinic July 16 to receive the readers get a lesson in how they work.

The scanner identifies the company that manufactured the microchip. The officers then must contact the company and get the recorded information on the pet’s owners. The companies keep two contacts that are provided by the pet owner, as well as information on the veterinarian who treats the dog.

“We’re saving people the time and money if we can find the owner before they get to animal control,” said Speciale.

The universal readers are from Home Again, which has a bulletin system that alerts veterinarians, animal services and the humane society of a missing or stolen dog within 25 miles of the reported incident.

Island law enforcement officials said it is important for pet owners to keep contact information updated with their microchip company so they can be contacted if their pet is found.

They also encouraged residents to bring their pets into any island law enforcement office to have their chip scanned if they are unsure of the record information.

Bystrom reminded pet owners not to use a neighbor’s address as a secondary contact. In the event of an emergency situation such as a hurricane evacuation, the neighbor also might be unavailable.

The Island Animal Clinic will place a microchip in a pet for $10 during hurricane season, instead of the usual $25 fee. There’s an additional $20 fee to register contacts with the microchip company.

Island roadwatch July 23-30

The Florida Department of Transportation reported a bridge maintenance project on the Longboat Pass Bridge/State Road 789 will continue 9 p.m.-5 a.m. daily through July 24.

Motorists should expect intermittent northbound and southbound lane closures.

A flagging operation will be in place for traffic flow during any lane closures.

The DOT maintenance project for the Cortez Bridge also is continuing. Crews this week will work on bridge resurfacing and repair the eastbound sidewalk.

Nighttime lane closures of the eastbound lane and a flagging operation will occur occasionally 9 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Pedestrians and cyclists are advised that the eastbound sidewalk will be closed during work periods. The westbound sidewalk will remain open.

The project is not expected to finish until late 2014 or early 2015, the DOT reported.

Florida Power and Light is continuing to replace power poles on Gulf Drive/State Road 789 from the Cortez Road intersection to 28th Street North in Holmes Beach.

Motorists should expect northbound lane closures 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through July 25.

FP&L crews also are replacing power poles along Cortez Road/State Road 684 from 103rd Street West to 119th Street West through July 25.

Motorists are advised to use caution and expect possible delays in work areas.

Tennis on tap at AMICC

The Anna Maria Island Community Center, in partnership with the Panda Foundation, is offering free youth and adult tennis clinics at the Rex Hagen Tennis Courts on the center campus, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

The youth clinic for beginning tennis players ages 6-18 took place after press time July 22.

The adult clinic is set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 26, with instructors Denis Pepegrin from Inspiration Tennis Academy, Jeff Russell from United Tennis Academy and Bob Davis of the Panda Foundation.

The Panda Foundation is a nonprofit founded and headed by Bob Davis, who was, some years back, the late Arthur Ashe’s doubles partner, and is the co-author with Nick Bollettieri of Changing the Game.

Davis, who was born in New York City, is a two-time ATA National Champion and soon will be inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. He won the ATA Junior National title and the Men’s Doubles title with his brother, hall-of-famer Bill Davis.

Davis helped create and was a director of the Ashe/Bollettieri Cities Tennis Program, which later became the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation. As CEO, he introduced tennis to more than 20,000 inner-city youngsters in 10 U.S. cities, while also providing health screenings and academic support.

Davis later created Black Dynamics, which offers scholarships for minority youths at IMG Academy.

Davis then started the Panda Foundation, which uses tennis as a vehicle to teach children the value of remaining in school, maintaining a healthy body and addressing childhood obesity and diabetes.

Davis, who moved to Manatee County in 1993, is committed to bringing the sport to Manatee’s under-served children. Already he has brought tennis instruction to youths at the Palmetto Youth Center, United Community Center and Church of the Cross.

For more information or to sign up, contact the island center at 941-778-1908 or Panda Foundation at 941-538-7115.


Top Notch: Week 5 winner


Sailing for gold

Marilia Clark of Holmes Beach wins this week’s Top Notch judging with her photograph of a golden sky, a sailboat and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, taken last fall from the Anna Maria City Pier. Clark wins an Islander “More-Than-a-Mullet-Wrapper” T-shirt and entry in the newspaper’s grand-prize Top Notch contest. A grand prize of $100, plus gift certificates from Mister Roberts, Banana Cabana, Slim’s Place, Tortilla Bay, Grooms Motors and Carlson Framing await the overall winner. July 25 is the deadline for the final week’s entries.