DHR’s Fishing for Hope tournament raises $400,000 for Hope Family Health Center

A record amount is raised for the only safety-net clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. DHR Health employees raise $180,000 for the clinic.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – The 17th Annual Fishing for Hope tournament has raised a record $400,000 for Hope Family Health Clinic.

Hosted by DHR Health, the tournament took place between 6:00 am and 2:00 pm on Saturday, Aug. 26, off of Jim’s Pier on South Padre Island. Over 170 boats were registered with each boat containing a team of four fishing enthusiasts. 

Awards and prizes were presented at the South Padre Island Convention Center the same evening. The highlight was the $400,000 check presented to Hope’s board of directors.

“This event is a large part of the sustainability of Hope,” Roxanne Ramirez, executive director of Hope Family Health Center told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, while the fishing tournament was underway.

“About one third of our budget comes from the proceeds of the Fishing for Hope tournament. We cannot thank DHR enough. Without this tournament we would not be able to continue with the service that we do for our community.”

Hope Family Health Center is based in McAllen. A 501(c) non-profit organization, it serves as the only safety-net clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. The About Us section of the clinic’s website states:

“We are dedicated to providing quality integrated medical and counseling services, including preventative care and education to medically indigent individuals and families living in the RGV. We ask Hope patients for small donations of $5-$15; however, no patient is ever turned away for inability to pay. We do not charge for our services and rely on the generosity of our community, fundraisers, and grants to sustain our services. We aim to provide services that strengthen families and build community.”

Ramirez said Hope Family Health Center helps about 2,800 people a year, with around 9,000 visits to the clinic.

“I’m here to represent those that many times feel invisible. Many times our patients feel they don’t have a voice and I get to be that voice for them. So I’m very, very passionate about the community that we get to serve,” Ramirez said.

“I will say this over and over again. Without DHR’s support, Hope really would not be able to do what we do.”

Asked what Hope means to the community, Ramirez said: 

“I think that Hope means light in the midst of the darkness. I think that for many people, they show up when they really do think that there’s been no other door that can be opened. And that’s when we get the opportunity to open it up.”

Marissa Castañeda is senior executive vice president for DHR Health. She has been a key organizer of Fishing for Hope from the beginning.

“Today is all about our the community that we serve. DHR Health is proud to bring the 17th annual Fishing for Hope tournament. We’re proud to put this on. All of the funds that are raised go directly to the Hope Family Family Health Center,” Castañeda told the Guardian, while the tournament was underway.

“As you know, the Hope Family Health Center is one of the only free clinics in Hidalgo County, servicing thousands and thousands of patients, the working poor, individuals that do not have access to health care insurance or benefits.  So the funds that are raised today really help to sustain the clinic, to keep it open to continue to treat patients that suffer from diabetes to chronic illnesses. A lot of these patients require surgery. DHR Health is proud to work with those physicians and patients requiring surgery and a lot of those are done at our hospital.”

Interviewed before the check announcement, Castañeda gave the Guardian a sneak preview of how much money had been raised for Hope.

“We’re excited to announce for the first time ever we will be donating $400,000 tonight because of the efforts over the last 45 days with our fundraising. DHR Health employees alone have raised $180,000. We have over 170 boats fishing the tournament, which makes this tournament one of the largest nonprofit fishing tournaments on the Gulf Coast.”

Castañeda said DHR has actually been helping Hope for 18 years, explaining that the fishing tournament could not be held one year because of COVID.

Asked if she can believe the fishing tournament has been going for 17 years, Castañeda said: “I can’t believe it’s 17 years. It makes me very emotional. I have been here throughout.”

Asked how the collaboration between Hope and DHR Health came about, Castañeda said:

“Dr. Beto Gutierrez had always done pro bono work and had been a volunteer at Hope Family Health Center. He came to Mr. Alonzo Cantu to talk about the need for keeping the clinic open. They were needing to pay their utility bill and it had come down to the wire. That first year we raised $50,000 and we kept on doing it.

“It has been a core group, Minerva Eccles, Dr. Beto Gutierrez, Robbie Haddad, myself. We have been a part of this for all of the 18 years and again, we are proud to say that we’ve helped to raise millions, almost $5 million for the clinic through these efforts. We didn’t know a lot about fishing or putting on fishing tournaments, but we knew a lot about having compassion and empathy and raising money for these patients. That’s what DHR health is all about, our cornerstone is our community.”

Castañeda said she would like to thank all those involved with the tournament.

“We make it fun for the entire family. This has been a tradition. It’s been awesome to see physicians bring their children out here when they were two or three years old and now they’re adults still fishing the tournament. We have sponsors that come from Austin, from Dallas, from San Antonio, from out of state because they love what this fishing tournament is about. It’s about catching hope, catching hope for Hope.”

Roberto Haddad is chairman of the board for Hope Family Health Center. The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service interviewed him before the fundraising total from the tournament had been announced.

Asked what Fishing for Hope means to the clinic, Haddad said:

“We are only funded by grants. We don’t charge for our services. We ask for donations from patients. When they cannot give we still serve them,” Haddad said.

“So this is huge because the money raised can go to general funds. We can use to it buy office supplies and medical supplies. It is used to pay for surgeries when patients that need them, for treatments for patients, to keep the lights on.”

Asked what is special about Hope, Haddad said: “Hope Family Health Center serves the uninsured and the indigent. All our health are providers, the physicians, are, for the most part, volunteers. We do have a physician assistant, medical assistants and we have counselors. But otherwise physicians volunteer their time.”

Asked how Hope’s collaboration with DHR started, Haddad said:

“It was started because Hope was having trouble paying its bills. And, in fact, at the time Hope was close to closing. It was really only open Tuesday through Thursday because we couldn’t afford the light bills Monday or Friday. And so we were in dire financial straits. 

“So when Fishing for Hope started I believe they started raising $25,000 a year just to help Hope pay the bills. Last year we raised $350,000. This year, hopefully we’ll be north of $300,000. That is close to a third of Hope’s annual budget. We have a $1.2 million budget.”

Like Ramirez, Haddad said he cannot thank DHR enough.

“Kudos to DHR for all it has done over the years. It’s just amazing. Hope is proud to be part of the tournament but so grateful to DHR, all our sponsors, all our fishermen that come out to have fun but also support our mission.

“This tournament is massive for Hope. It cannot be replicated by the clinic itself. Because DHR is such a large organization with many resources they are able to put on this massive tournament. I believe it’s the largest fishing tournament in Texas that serves a nonprofit.”

Haddad also said thank you to the staff of DHR.

“DHR puts in an unlimited amount of man hours in to make it work. Volunteers from all across the organization help. But it is not only the employees who help. DHR leans on its vendors to ask them for sponsorships and then the employees all over DHR hold fundraisers to help support the tournament,” Haddad said.

“I don’t know the number, we’ll learn tonight what that number is, but the funds raised by DHR employees is usually north of $85,000 to $90,000. I think last year it was actually $110,000. They sell tacos, they sell chips. They hold raffles. All sorts of things, DHR employees do, starting from June through August to help fundraise for this tournament.”

Asked if there was anything else he would like to add, Haddad said: “Our website address is hopefamilyhealthcenter.com. Go there to learn about us. If you’re a physician or medical provider or behavioral health provider, and you want to give back to the community, we’d love to have you reach out to us. You can also donate on there.”

Retired nurse Clare Gutierrez, wife of Dr. Beto Gutierrez, was asked to say a few words at the awards ceremony.

“Beto said to make it short and sweet. So I just want to tell you that that’s a lot of money. And it’s fantastic. I can’t even explain, but you need to keep in mind that the number of uninsured people in this area has gone through the roof, too. So, while the money is going to be tremendous, very, very, very helpful, please don’t forget us. Ever. Because it’s sad.”

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