23rd Annual Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge

Challenge is on! Key Largo Rotary challenges all ages to sign up for a family-fun weekend of round-the-clock fishing that benefits Upper Keys students. Last year’s tournament raised over $40,000 for Take Stock in Children and other local scholarships, and they expect to reel in more this year. 

Take Stock in Children is a state-wide program that provides volunteer mentorship and college scholarships to underserved yet deserving students with college scholarships. Students that complete the program are awarded a Florida prepaid scholarship for 2 years at any Florida community college, followed by 2 years at a state college or university. To earn their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime and drug-free, and meet with their mentors. The President of Key Largo Rotary Club, Jennifer Miller, has been a Take Stock in Children mentor herself.

“The student I mentored graduated a few years ago, and it was a very rewarding experience for both of us,” Jennifer says. “By serving on the rotary’s scholarship committee and helping to raise money for local scholarships, I get a front-seat view of how our club changes people’s lives for the better.”

The Backcountry Challenge also helps fund Key Largo Rotary vocational/technical scholarships for graduating seniors and Interact Scholarships for college-bound seniors. Key Largo Rotary awards adult scholarships, as well, to current Upper Keys residents who need job training. Examples include nursing, teaching, cooking, boat captaining, and first responders training.

“It’s important to the Key Largo Rotary Scholarship Program that applicants intend to remain in or return to the Keys to work after completing their program,” Jennifer explains.  

The 23rd Annual Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge is taking place Friday, September 23rd through Sunday, September 25th. This catch & release tournament tests the angler skills of all ages, fishing for snook, trout, and redfish. Unlike other tournaments, fishing starts immediately after the Anglers Meeting & Kick-off Party on Friday, and check-in doesn’t end until 4 p.m. Sunday. The fun continues Sunday evening with the Awards Dinner Banquet and an auction filled with great items. 

A lucky raffle winner will take home the “Tom Tharp Cooler O’Cheer,” a 152-quart cooler filled with top-shelf, premium liquor ($1,500 value). Raffle tickets are available at Doc’s Diner or KeyLargoRotary.org. The winner does not have to be present to win. Anglers compete for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in three divisions: adult, junior (13-17), and kids (12 & younger). Other awards include Adult Artificial Subdivision Largest Combined Species, Adult and Junior Backcountry Champions, Top Professional Angler, and Top Guide.

Winning anglers receive beautiful artwork created by local artist Roberto “Pasta” Pantaleo. Pasta is well-recognized for his vivid marine artwork, which can be seen at ArtByPasta.com.

Last year’s Backcountry Grand Champion, Jenni Pora, has brought home multiple awards over the years. Event committee members tease Jenni that she’ll need a room addition to house all her awards unless a new or returning angler dethrones her. You don’t have to fish in the tournament to join the fun. Social tickets are available for the Kick-off Party and Awards Banquet on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets sell out fast, and registration fees increase after Sept. 22nd, so be sure to register early.  

The Key Largo Rotary thanks all of the generous sponsors that make this event possible. As of this writing, top sponsors are Keys Weekly, Caribee Boats and Yahama, FKEC, FREE Press, and Robbie’s of Islamorada. It’s not too late to become a sponsor! Their gratitude extends to the volunteers, including the Key Largo Rotarians and Coral Shores H.S. Interact Club.


To accept the Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge, visit KeyLargoRotary.org, where you can register, purchase social tickets and raffle tickets for the Cooler O’ Cheer, become a sponsor, or learn how to be involved in Rotary Club Key Largo.

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