December 21, 2020
By Game and Fish Staff
It was quite a Christmas sight to behold.
Hundreds of Santa Claus-anglers on bass boats at Lake Norman on Dec. 12 to bring holiday spirit to area children in need.
Ugly Stik's World Largest Santa Claus Bass Tournament was a Merry-Christmas event as 298 Santa-suit-wearing anglers competed after donating toys for the organization Toys for Tots.
By the time the tournament was underway at safe light, a pair of 21-foot Bass Cat boats were overflowing with toys, which were presented to Toys for Tots at the afternoon weigh-in. The value of the toys donated by anglers, Ugly Stik and other supporters was estimated to be well in excess of $15,000.
"It would be difficult to find a group of people more passionate than anglers are about giving back and helping others in need. And we saw a need that we believe deserves to be filled, so we created an event where we combine two things everyone loves (Christmas and fishing) to see that no child goes without a visit from Santa Claus this year," said Ugly Stik Vice President of Marketing Jon Schlosser. "I'm proud of the fishing community for coming together to this degree for such a worthy cause. And I'm proud that we achieved these results while also having a great time."
This year has been especially difficult for charities of all kinds. Due to the pandemic, there are no large-scale events with which to raise funds and solicit donations. In the case of Toys for Tots, many of its donations come from donation boxes located at businesses. Toys for Tots Coordinator for Iredell Co. (N.C.) Vivian Meletis said more than 30 percent of the local businesses which previously displayed donation boxes are now shuttered due to the pandemic. Last year, Toys for Tots distributes toys to about 4,000 children in the area.
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"The number of children who need Toys for Tots never decreases. Based on the number of donations we received to this point, it was looking bleak, but Marines never give up and we were't going to let COVID-19 be the Grinch this year," said Meletis. "The anglers were our angels this year. What the anglers and Ugly Stik did with this overwhelming donation overcomes our deficit so that we will continue to be able to provide for children in the area. We can't thank everyone involved enough. This means so much."
For more information about Ugly Stik, go to www.uglystik.com.