Float for Hope

Sitting at the boat dock at the Washington riverfront mid-morning Wednesday, July 3, was a Lewis and Clark inspired flat-bottom boat, complete with log cabin sides, a nautical steering wheel and exposed aluminum painted to resemble wood to match the theme.

A group of men with Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel had embarked on a 120-mile journey to help “Give Kids the World.”

The float began in Jefferson City Tuesday, July 2, and the group stayed in Hermann Tuesday night. They took a rest stop at the Washington riverfront before heading to St. Charles, where the trip was set to end later that day.

Aboard the boat were Pat Lupsha, COO of Davidson Hotels and Resorts, and Stephen Abbate, Vern Hellmann, Bill Fontes, Don Bittick and Jim Salzano, all Renaissnace employees.

“We were going from the current capital to the original capital of Missouri (St. Charles),” Abbate said.

The voyage will benefit Give Kids the World Village, located in Central Florida.

The village is a 70-acre, nonprofit resort where children with life-threatening illnesses can travel with their families. Each family is treated to a weeklong, cost-free vacation.

“It’s a hope village,” Fontes said. “It’s a place free of all the tubes, testing and medical equipment. It’s all for the kids.”

Davidson Hotels and Resorts, which has 47 hotels across the country, has been donating to the village for more than 20 years and has donated about $2.4 million total, Lupsha said. This year’s goal is to donate $300,000.

Lupsha has made it a friendly contest between hotels to see which can raise the most money for the organization. The winning hotel team receives a trip to an annual gala at Give Kids the World.

The St. Louis team was trying to raise $25,000. By Wednesday morning, they were on track to meet their goal.

After the trip, the pontoon boat was going to be auctioned with proceeds to be added to the donation.

In Jefferson City, the group met up with a little girl named Grace, who had visited the village. Grace named the boat “The Magical Mickey.”

Another family that has benefited from Give Kids the World was set to meet the group in St. Charles.

“We feel that it gives back to the children who really need our help,” Lupsha said.

Fontes said meeting Grace inspired the group to continue to give to the organization.

To donate, people may visit floatforhope.com.