WSIA’s annual Charity Auction set a new record at Surf Expo in September, raising nearly $11,000 in funds to benefit three recipients: Brad Smeele, Matt Manzari and Wake The World.
Wake The World is a non-profit who was elected as a new recipient for 2016. Founded in 2008, Wake The World is a group of boat owners providing watersports opportunities to abandoned, abused and neglected children, as well as the handicapped and wounded warriors. Founder Greg Hodgin said, “We were so honored to be chosen as one of the beneficiaries of WSIA’s annual Charity Auction! To be mentioned in the same breath as Matt and Brad is absolutely humbling. Thank you to everyone that donated items and bid for the auction.”
Wake The World will use their donation towards the purchase of a 24-foot enclosed trailer to house and transport water sports equipment including kayaks, paddle boards, wakeboards, waterskis, kneeboards, trainer boards, life jackets and ropes as well as adaptive equipment.
Brad Smeele, who suffered a tragic spinal cord injury in 2014, made the trip from New Zealand to attend Surf Expo this year, highlighted by his touching performance as host of the Wake Awards. “I’m incredibly grateful for the huge effort put in by the WSIA on the Charity Auction, and to everyone who placed a bid on items,” Smeele said. “The funds raised are a big help and are so greatly appreciated! It’s amazing to have such huge support from the industry and people in it. And it’s awesome how the WSIA is there to support our industry, our waterways and our athletes. Thank you!”
Matt Manzari was also in attendance and is doing well, although still has a challenging road ahead with surgeries related to his electrocution in 2014, while he was trimming trees for a local church. “I can’t thank WSIA enough for pouring into our industry. They are consistently there to ensure growth and safety of our sport. Not only are they water sports ambassadors, but they go above and beyond by raising support for individuals like myself. It is overwhelming and I’m so grateful for your vital role in this industry, and the life of my family. Thank you!”
This September marked the first time that Brad and Matt were able to see each other and catch up. The pair endured their injuries within 10 days of each other in 2014. Manzari posted this photo on Instagram and commented, “Even though Brad and I haven’t been able to spend time together since our accidents, I’ve felt very close to him through the whole process, as the wake industry came together to support us both! He has been such an inspiration to me as I’ve watched his positive attitude all the way through. In the midst of daily struggles, or after a surgery, I think of Brad and I’m so encouraged. He knows what it’s like to feel like your world is a hospital room, to humble yourself and allow others to help you, and to face your fears and move forward with life.”