Giving for Good
Philanthropy and food pair well locally, and entrepreneur Michael Evanoff has been a proponent of both for two decades.
As the owner of Evie’s taverns—as well as numerous other bars, restaurants and businesses—Evanoff’s culinary and charitable reach spans the Sarasota-Manatee community. When he puts his energy toward a cause, buzz and donations are rapidly generated, and area fundraisers are eager to pair up with him for awareness-raising events.
“I always try to drive the point across that this is why you should support local businesses. It is important for us to support local charities and to give back. It just makes you feel good,” Evanoff says, adding that his outreach efforts began in 1997 when he started the Evie’s operation, but that he is not certain of how much money he has helped raise since then. “I decided, a few years ago, to pick a few charities that are close to me.”
Those charities include the veteran-focused Operation Second Chance (Evanoff ’s White Buffalo Saloon hosts its annual Tarpon Tournament, which invites veterans to enjoy a weekend of tarpon fishing and cash prizes); the Sarasota Police Foundation (an ongoing endeavor to raise private money for the Sarasota Police Department); the Special Olympics (funds circulate at the weekly hole-in-one events at Evie’s on football Sundays); and Moffitt Cancer Center (money is raised at the annual Evie’s Golf Tournament).
“We also donate and do fundraisers with over 250 local charities, events, groups, organizations, schools and more—from large to small,” Evanoff says.
This year, Evanoff’s commitment to supporting cancer research was channeled into The Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research, benefiting Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
In February, 9-year-old Benjamin Gilkey, a third-grader at Sarasota’s Southside Elementary School, passed away after more than two years of treatment for leukemia. His family launched the fund in his honor.
Evanoff’s son, Cole, had been a classmate of Benjamin Gilkey’s for years. Evanoff reached out to Benjamin’s mother, Laura Gilkey, to ask if he could donate the proceeds of his fifth annual Charity Golf Tournament in April to the fund. The event raised $20,675. Then, in June, the White Buffalo Saloon held its fifth annual Tarpon Tournament (with the after party and awards presentation at Evie’s at Spanish Point). Evanoff chose five charities for the tournament to benefit, and Benjamin Gilkey’s fund was one of them (the event added another $6,830 to the cause).
“To date, Mike’s efforts are responsible for nearly 15 percent of the money we’ve raised for pediatric cancer research at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital,” Laura Gilkey says.
As of early September, which is Child Cancer Awareness Month, the fund’s total was at $189,405.
“The timing of this initial burst of support from our community is incredible, really. The new Research and Education Building at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is set to open in early 2018, and the Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute has just added new physician researchers to their staff,” Laura Gilkey says. “My hope is that, with these developments, and with support of the fund, groundbreaking advancements can be made at the hospital, and survival rates and outcomes can improve. We want to honor Benjamin’s bravery, and we can think of no better way to do that than to help another child.”
The compassionate fundraising displayed by Evanoff, Laura Gilkey says, exemplifies just how much of an impact business owners can make.
“What means so much to me about Mike’s efforts is that, as a prominent local business owner, he is providing a public example for others to follow. Several other companies have made donations toward pediatric cancer research in Benjamin’s honor,” Laura Gilkey says. “We appreciate every investment, in every denomination. Together, I have no doubt that we will make a huge difference for the children in our community.”
For more information on Evanoff’s businesses, visit eviesonline.com. To donate to his championed causes, visit The Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (giveto.hopkinsallchildrens.org/benjamingilkeyfund), Operation Second Chance (operationsecondchance.org), the Sarasota Police Foundation (sarasotapolicefoundation.org), and the Special Olympics (specialolympics.org).