This article is from the May 1997 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Dig Beneath the Surface, For Pete’s Sake

by Geri Anderson

Geri Anderson is aF subscriber who hails from Oak Creek, Colorado.

Those of us who like rustic, off-the-beaten-path locations get kinda antsy in extravagant, resorty places. We form opinions about travelers who luxuriate in marbled bathrooms and demand poolside pampering. Could it be, if we peeled off a thin layer of tourist tack, we’d discover real people honoring and helping others...just like in any small town?

Yep. At least that’s what I discovered last October when I peeked behind the scenes in Cabo San Lucas. On the one hand, Cabo is an enclave of showy timeshare condos centered around a marina stocked with oodles of yachts. It’s also home to what is billed as the West Coast’s Marlin Tournament. You see, Pete Lopiccola was a well-loved and fun-loving boat captain when he died of leukemia at the age of 29.

"He was a wonderful guy and my best friend," explains Gloria Davis, who, along with other friends of Pete, got the idea for the tournament. "He knew for four years he was dying, but kept it to himself," she recalls, wiping away a small tear from the corner of her eye. "He put up a front of being carefree and happy. We were partying at his funeral...Pete wanted us to party...and after a few drinks, we decided to hold a fishing tournament in his honor." Gloria has worked on all of the tournaments since then. She took a vacation from her job at first mate on a boat in the Caribbean to come to Cabo last October.

The first "For Pete’s Sake" tournament, a small affair, was held in October 1988. Last year, at the 9th annual event, 175 anglers and 50 boats participated...for Pete’s sake. The tournament raised $110,000 and the University of California San Diego Cancer Research Center matched this with $145,000, resulting in $255,000 worth of leukemia research. Another $65,000 was raised to help children in Los Cabos get medical attention.

Mike Grzanich, owner of Latitutde 22+, coordinates the volunteers and donors who live in Cabo. His restaurant serves as headquarters throughout the year for those in need and those who want to help them. He rattles off a list of kids who received aid last year. They were given glass eyes, braces, airfare to Children’s Hospital, a new arm, a tonsillectomy, oral surgery and CAT scan. A vibrant teenaged girl in a bright red dress and white leotards limped slightly on her artificial leg as she walked to her table at the awards banquet.

Tournament awards for largest fish and highest "catch and release" aren’t fancy: free dinners at Cabo restaurants, T-shirts...and all are donated. Also, unlike some fund raisers, no monies are skimmed off the top for administration. All work is done by volunteers. Items at the banquet auction are donated. Mike’s ugly tapestry went for a few thousand. Tradition has it that the purchaser donates it back the next year. But then, who would want to keep a thing like that for more than a year?

It’s not a poor man’s affair, to be sure. Fishermen paid $15,000 for a sculpture, thousands for each painting, and $10,000 for a week’s fishing trip. However, because of people who donated valuable items, and others who bid on them, kids will get help with lupus, reconstructive surgery, and prosthetics. Hopefully, leukemia researchers will one day find a cure that might have saved Pete Lopiccola’s life.

If you’re in Cabo San Lucas (October 30 to November 1), you might want to head for the For Pete’s Sake Tournament. "It’s going to be in the Hacienda Hotel again," said Chuck Faith, president of the Pete Lopiccola Leukemia Research Foundation. "It’s a wonderful resort and ideal location for a marlin tournament, with facilities for weigh-in on the beach and a banquet capacity for 450 people."

For that matter, anytime you’re in Cabo San Lucas, stop by Latitude 22+ and say hello to Mike...for Pete’s sake.