Museum hopes lots of lettuce raised for Snooty during 24-hour online 'Giving Challenge'

rdymond@bradenton.comMay 6, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Snooty, perhaps the world's most famous manatee, may be one of the beneficiaries of the 2014 Giving Challenge, with 400-plus local charitable organizations hoping to raise a lot of money online in just 24 hours.

Starting at noon Tuesday and continuing until noon Wednesday, people can donate through computers and smart phones to help raise funds for these local non-profits, said Susie Bowie, Director of Non Profit Strategy for the Community Foundation of Sarasota, which puts the event on with the help of several other partners.

The South Florida Museum, home to Snooty, is among the 400 organizations hoping people will click on www.givingpartnerchallenge.org to donate $25 or more.

Care for Snooty, who turns 66 on July 21, is expensive. He eats 75 pounds of romaine lettuce a day plus 10 pounds of other vegetables.

When water filtration, electricity and two full-time and some part-time staff are figured in, the museum's yearly manatee bill comes to roughly $75,000, said Martha Wells, Development Director of the South Florida Museum.

"We pay the bills through admissions and private donations," Wells said. "But it is tough. There is really no pot of money at the state level for manatee care."

The Giving Partner Challenge can turn just about

anyone into a philanthropist. More than 400 non-profits working throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties will raise money to support arts, education, animal welfare, human services and the environment in both communities.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation, in partnership with the Manatee Community Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Charlotte Community Foundation are setting a high goal with $675,000 in matching dollars and challenge support.

The 24-hour online fund-raising event is part of a national day of giving called Give Local America in more than 100 communities across the country.

Last year's Challenge resulted in $2.78 million raised through more than 17,000 gifts to benefit 287 participating non-profits, Bowie said.

This year, Carrie Yearwood, who graduated from Saint Stephens Episcopal School in Bradenton in 1989, has stepped up with matching funds for Snooty -- up to $40,000.

Yearwood's husband, Marcus Yearwood, graduated from Manatee High in 1987.

The Yearwoods now live in Springboro, Ohio, between Cincinnati and Dayton.

Carrie Yearwood fell in love with Snooty in 1981, when she was in fourth grade.

Her first field trip was to the South Florida Museum where she fed a head of lettuce to Snooty.

"I was always an animal lover, but Snooty was special," Yearwood said Monday. "Manatees are not necessarily cute, but if you learn about them, you find they are lovable and gentle."

Yearwood's father was a philanthropist who made his fortune in ready mix cement trucks. He left all five of his children funds for charities.

Yearwood sent the South Florida Museum a check for $65,000 for food for Snooty about a year ago.

Yearwood still has Florida friends and is urging them to get on the Giving Challenge website Tuesday.

"I'm telling them on my Facebook site, 'Come on, dig in your pockets and donate twenty-five dollars,'" Yearwood said.

If helping feed Snooty doesn't appeal, there are many, many other choices, Bowie said. They are all listed on the Challenge website.

"We have education providers, animal welfare organizations, health related groups, human services, environmental, civic engagement, just about anything under the sun," Bowie said.

"We know there are fans of The Humane Society of Manatee County, which is partnering in the Challenge with Gulf Shore Animal League," Bowie said. "Both of them are working together to raise money for homeless cats."

Realize Bradenton and Art Center Manatee are also hoping for donors, Bowie added.

"Many of the non-profits have teamed up," Bowie said.

To participate, visit givingpartnerchallenge.org.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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