Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:34 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saturday derby will reel in Relay for Life support

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo provided

Scott Harding, who died Jan. 3, led fundraising efforts for the Relay for Life of Homer, an event benefiting the American Cancer Society.

No one has single-handedly raised more funds for Relay of Life in Homer than Scott Harding.

"He was the top winner every year," said his wife, Mary Ann, estimating Harding raised between $14,000-$16,000 annually since the first Relay was held in Homer in 2009.

A team that formed around Harding was inspired by his battle against multiple myeloma. Team WAKO, standing for We All Know One, is a nod to the widespread impact individuals diagnosed with cancer have. It's fundraising efforts have been equally impressive.

Diagnosed in 2007, Harding died Jan. 3, at the age of 59, but his memory continues to inspire fundraising to help battle cancer.

"This year we have raised $15,000 already," said Mary Ann.

A new twist to that effort takes place Saturday. The Scott Harding Fish For Cancer Cure Tournament begins at 7 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. with an emphasis on catch-and-release. Organized by Dan Dickey, it will be based in Anchor Point, but rules include fishermen launching out of Homer, as well.

Tammy Ackerman, who is helping coordinate this year's June 8-9 Relay for Life in Homer, said events such as this join family, friends and caregivers in a positive way.

"With cancer, we always feel like there's nothing we can do," said Ackerman. "This is an opportunity to actually do something. ... You have a hand in curing cancer, raising funds for research."

Dickey met Harding 22 years ago when the two were co-workers on the North Slope. When Dickey faced his own health challenges a year ago, Harding came to his aid.

"Scott was really struggling last summer, but he was very concerned about me, giving me advice," said Dickey. "That made a big impression on me. He set aside his battle to help me with mine. It was mind-blowing."

Dickey shared that story with others and heard similar reports of Scott helping others.

"If anyone had an excuse to feel sorry for himself, it was him, but he didn't do that," said Dickey, who was devastated by news of Harding's death. "Then I thought (Scott) would not approve of this. I needed to get off my lazy butt and make him proud of me."

Dickey presented Mary Ann Harding with the idea of the fishing tournament.

"She agreed it would be cool to do," said Dickey.

Tournament details are in keeping with Harding's fishing derby philosophy.

"He didn't like derbies because they encouraged people to catch the big fish and keep it," said Mary Ann Harding. "He felt like it depleted our supply of halibut."

Dickey also was aware of Harding's criticisms about most fishing competitions.

"He didn't want a bunch of Anchorage people down here catching his fish," said Dickey, laughing. "That's why we decided to go with a format of making it catch-and-release. And then, of course, we offered an out. If you want to keep your fish, you can donate to the American Cancer Society. I think Scott would get tickled with that."

Tournament rules are fairly simple:

1. The master of ceremony, Mary Ann Harding, has final say in all tournament matters.

2. All Alaska Department of Fish and Games laws apply.

3. All fees collected will be given to Team WAKO.

4. Halibut is the fish species of the tournament.

5. A winner will be declared at the end of the tournament for the longest fish, weight to be determined by total length and tide book conversion. The prize will be paid via private donations, not tournament proceeds.

6. Fish must be photographed, their length verified by tape measure and released. The exception to this rule will be one fish kept for a $50 donation to Team WAKO and a second fish kept for a $100 donation to Team WAKO. If an angler decides to keep two fish the donation will be $150. If a fish dies during release, it must be kept and the fee applies.

7. Each angler's entry fee will be $25, with all proceeds going to Team WAKO.

8. The tournament begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. All photos must be verified by the master of ceremony. Fish entered before or after tournament times will not be eligible for prize money. Photos must be time stamped. Vessels departing from Homer must submit photos no later than 4 p.m.

9. Everyone must have a good time. Scott would have made this a requirement.

About 60 people that knew and worked with Harding on the North Slope are planning to take part in the tournament.

"There's a lot of people that (Harding) worked with that he definitely made an impression on," said Dickey.

Derby headquarters will be at 93725 Kyllonen Drive, not far from the Anchor Point tractor launch.

"We're going to have some boats with extra room available if people just want to show up, but we would appreciate if people brought their own boats, also," said Dickey.

Dickey can be contacted by text or phone at 399-4658 or by email at danmdickey@yahoo.com.

"This is the least I can do for my friend," said Dickey. "I hope the tournament continues on in the future."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.