Mitch Widom knows a thing or two about fishing. After getting hooked on the sport at age 16, he has been casting his line ever since. For over a decade, he’s organized fishing trips for a group of close friends to such exotic locales as Brazil, Costa Rica, remote Alaska and Guatemala. “It’s a passion,” Widom says, “though my wife would probably say it’s an obsession!”
But when he and his wife, Alicia, learned in 2004 that their oldest daughter, Taylor, had Crohn’s disease, a digestive condition that affects more than 1 million people in the United States, the Bilzin Sumberg trial attorney put that passion to good use. And what was once called “The All-Guys Fishing Tournament” became the Keymorada Invitational Fly-Spin Tournament.
Widom decided to hold the benefit in May — which he calls “prime time for fishing in the Florida Keys.” He limited the two-day tournament to 60 (now raised to 65) participants, but to involve those fishermen and women in the fundraising. “Most of the time when you fish a tournament, there’s an $800 registration fee. We don’t charge a registration fee,” Widom says. “Instead, we use the 60 participants to help sell tickets [for the benefit drawing].”
His strategy has paid off — along with donations from 65 law firms, cash sponsors and an online auction, the event reeled in more than $152,000 in its first year, 2005, easily shattering the original goal of $35,000. At press time, the 2006 tournament had already exceeded its goal of $200,000 to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
Despite the rigors of organizing the tournament, Widom still finds time during the event to fish with his family, including Taylor, who has taken a keen interest in her father’s hobby. “It’s been great to help my daughter and help others,” Widom says, “while doing something I really love with people I really love.”