Boat Party Businesses Make Charity Splash to help Rockport’s Harvey Recovery
By Grant Gordon
After seeing the damage Hurricane Harvey left in his hometown of Rockport, Kendrick Norton responded the way he knew best. He threw a party on a boat.
The owner of Austin-based ATX Party Boats reached out to the owners of two other local boat party companies, Chris Galindo of Westside Wake and Kevin Dihn of Wave in Water. They also grew up in Rockport, and when they agreed to volunteer their boats and captains, the Hope After Harvey Boat Party set sail.
The weather couldn’t have been better on Lake Austin for the Sept. 15 event that raised $3,425. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the 55 attendees packed into more than a half-dozen pontoon boats couldn’t resist the combination of philanthropy and fun. Local Austin favorites donated food and beverages.
Norton knew he had to do something after seeing the damage the storm did to Rockport, a town of about 10,000 on the coast just north of Corpus Christi.
“Every tree that I grew up playing under got uprooted,” Norton said. “We all wanted to do something for the community where we grew up.”
He reached out to Alexis Neal, the founder and CEO of Austin-based event planner EventSpace, for help in coordinating sponsors. Neal appealed to several local sponsors she consistently works with, including 512 Tequila, Deep Eddy Vodka and Austin EastCiders.
“All it took was a simple text message,” Neal said, “and they immediately agreed to help.”
512 Tequila donated 18 bottles of tequila and Deep Eddy provided a case of vodka, while Friends & Allies Brewing Company gave eight 18-packs of beer. Jaime’s Spanish Village donated chips and salsa.
Norton handled the promotion for the event, organized through a Facebook event page. He also reached out to the popular Do512 website, used by over 350,000 people each month to find out about events around town, which featured the party on its site.
Austin resident Michal Hartman, 27, came to the event with her 22-year-old sister, Rebecca, who was on a weekend active-duty leave from the Air Force, after seeing the event page on Do512. The sisters said they love going on party boats, and they also have a close friend from Rockport.
“We came here to show him that we support him,” Michal Hartman said.
Norton, along with Neal, took the money raised to Rockport the week after the event in a hands-on attempt to help rebuild the city he grew up in.
Norton and Neal partnered with a Rockport church that was organizing cleanup efforts and worked for three days, helping clear brush and debris from the houses of five families.
They spent a day and a half cleaning the yard of a family that lost 19 trees during the storm, and also helped remove a fallen porch roof.
Beyond their labor, Norton and Neal used money raised from their boat party to buy two chainsaws to help clear toppled trees, paid hourly wages to local residents who were willing to help and wrote a check for an elderly couple whose home sustained severe damage. They split what was left between the Fulton and Rockport Fire Departments.
Norton said several firefighters lost their home in the storm and were still living in the fire department, a month after Harvey’s initial landfall.
“The community is at its best at times like this,” Dihn said.