Jesse Tree Support Network Fundraiser

Scanning the searchers briefly, I then turned to see with relief that a tent had been erected and the family was seated comfortably drinking water and talking to a Jesse Tree councilor who had just arrived…

Thinking back over the past decade I have lost count of the times we’ve worked a drowning on one of our beaches along with our public safety partners and had family members of the victim sitting on the beach looking to us for some type of resolution. We’re good at our primary mission of prevention and also, at rescue and the operational side of a recovery effort. But we’re just not geared for, nor do we have the resources for providing counseling or religions support. Nor do we have the capacity to beat the bushes for hotels to offer free rooms for families that can’t cover the cost or donations of meals, clothing etc. Families in this situation at times also need someone to be a liaison to public safety groups, consulates and embassies, or a network of emotional and spiritual support in their home communities. That’s why I’ll always feel a tremendous gratitude to Ted Hanley and David Mitchell of the Jesse Tree for their willingness to take on this emotionally draining, but critical role at a time that is so needed for these families. The team that has joined them through the years is no less compassionate and willing to step forward and do something that makes a real difference. They have done so much for so many and been amazing ambassadors for the spirit of caring and support that permeates so many people here on our island. And now it’s time for us to help them to help more of our guests. Here is what they are sending out to as many as will hear it and act:

“Tragedy Strikes when we least expect it. For over a decade the Survivor Support Network has responded with consolation, compassionate care, and common sense to the families and friends of drowning victims on Galveston’s beaches. This dedicated team of volunteers meets their immediate needs, while guiding them to the necessary resources in the aftermath of the tragedy. The team also ministers to the needs of the Beach Patrol staff- many of whom risk their own lives to save others and significantly feel the impact of these events. Without this well-trained team, these incidents would simply not offer the dignity and compassion that a loving community can bring to a tragedy. Please support our effort to keep this team on alert as the summer season approaches. The Jesse Tree invites you to support this worthy work by attending a Valentine’s concert fundraising event.”

The event will be held on February 12th at 3pm. Vocalist David W. Mitchell and Pianist Hector Bisio are the entertainment. Tickets are limited and can be reserved by calling 409-762-2233 from 9-11am M-F or by e-mailing [email protected] or visiting The event will be held at the beautiful T-House 1619 Sealy, Galveston, Texas 77550.


On the beach we have a multitude of special events, many of which the general public is never aware. One of the most interesting one is a small one we’ve been helping to support for a couple of years.

The TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) 24 Hour Challenge Fundraiser event is something that any sane person would avoid like the plague. Unfortunately many of our lifeguards are not “sane”. Austin Kirwin is one of our most exceptional employees. He’s one of our year round Supervisor/Peace Officer/EMT crew, an amazing athlete, and is a member of the Air Force National Guard, based at Ellington Field. His specialty is that of a TACP, so is part of a unique brotherhood.

For those like me who didn’t know, an Air Force TACP is the liaison between the Army and Air Force and is deployed with Army groups to advise ground commanders on the best use of air power, maintain communications, and provide terminal guidance for close air support.

The TACP Association is a non-profit organization that serves as a support structure for the TACP Community. Members consist of current and former TACPs, their families and the people who support the TACP mission. They have no paid staff and 100% of their budget goes towards the benefit of their community and mission, which is to “Remember the fallen, honor the living, and aid brothers in need”. The Association has provided support of several TACPs who were wounded in action and have assisted the families of TACPs killed in action. They strive to relieve the financial pressure of the members and families during tragedies so that healing and mourning may occur.

The 24 Hour Challenge Fundraiser will be based in our office at Stewart Beach starting at noon on March 23rd and continuing all the way to noon on the 24th. They will work in a team and there must be at least one person running at all times during the challenge. The cumulative miles of each team will be scored. There is also a category for ultra runners, which adds up the miles of two person teams.

This all sounds like good fun until you look at some stats. Nationwide they had 5,153 runners and they completed a total of 1,222.4 miles per each of 333 teams in four countries, for a total of 37,037.7 miles. That means they ran the equivalent of 1.5 times the circumference of the earth. The 8 Ultra teams ran 980.6 miles and averaged 61.3 miles per runner.

So if you see some really fit, tired, hard core men and women running down the beach the morning of the 24th, give our hometown Beach Patrol hero Austin a shout. They’ll have a setup on the SW corner of the pavilion and you can sign up to run whatever distance you want. Your miles count.

The event may be small compared to some others, but it gives a glimpse into the lives of some really dedicated men and women who are not only amazing athletes and humanitarians, but are true patriots.



BBQ Thank You

A light breeze cooled the crowd as dusk set in on the street outside of the Press Box. The music played a mix that had a little something for everyone. People mingled, ate plates of BBQ, told stories, perused the silent auction items, talked trash, and all seemed to be having a good time.

The beach party of the year went well. For me, on this 17th year we’ve had this fundraiser, things seemed to fall in place. Layers of groups all mixed together. There were rookie lifeguards doing most of the work, recurrent guards and their families, Beach Maintenance and Beach Park employees, a reunion of guards that worked for us years ago, Galveston partiers, people who work the beach in various capacities, city and county officials and employees, people who just came out to support what we do, and 10 to 15 year old Junior Lifeguards running around.

A lot of people and groups put in a ton of work to make this happen and make it run smoothly. There are too many to include here, but I and we sincerely thank all of them and all of the people who came out to support and donate so generously. It looks like we were able to raise quite a bit of money to support our scholarship program, our Junior Guard families that bring their kids to the national guard competition, lifeguard exchange program, specialty equipment, and a number of other good things that we do but can’t provide from a governmental budget.

But more than just a fundraiser, this event has come to signify a pause in the summer madness. It’s a chance for all of us that work so hard on the beach and that deal with tourists in other capacities to relax for a minute. We get to take a breath, spend some time together, and have a little fun before diving back in. For me it’s a chance to acknowledge that no matter how koo-koo we Galvestonians can be, there is something special about living here. A chance to remember how much I genuinely like so many people that live on this island.

It’s also a marker. Junior lifeguards that attended the first BBQ fundraiser event at 10 years of age are now pushing 30 and are teaching the next generation how to be lifeguards while instilling those intangible values that beach people around the world share. Teaching them to enjoy life, honor each other, live simply, be of service, put another’s life before your own when needed, work with the water/environment instead of imposing yourself on it, and to respect the water and marine environment.

So before I dive back into the second half of the summer along with the 100 guards I’m privileged to work with, let us say a collective thank you to everyone who supported this event and supports us throughout the years and decades. It means more than we could ever express and enables us to do the work we do.