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Cheers to Okaloosa Island’s Hurricane Relief Event

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Clint Rogers, Misty Rae Ruthrauff, Alyssa Hoffman, Gil Osterloh and Steve Kotowske at November’s Cheers for Charity fundraiser held on Okaloosa Island.

On Saturday, November 10, over 400 people attended a Hurricane Michael fundraiser hosted by The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island. The community rallied together to cheers with over 120 wines, craft beers, and spirits, all in the name of charity. Cheers for Charity, A Hurricane Michael Fundraiser raised $22,260 with 100 percent of the event proceeds benefitting Panhandle Prayers and Pawsitive Love Foundation, two reputable organizations whose efforts are assisting those affected by the storm.


The event was pulled together in just two weeks, as a few community members and team members from Saltwater Restaurants Inc., along with the management company of The Boardwalk, saw an opportunity to do something with more long-term objectives for Hurricane Michael victims.


“Like most of the community, we immediately felt the need to assist those affected by the storm with hot meals and supplies, but felt a strong urge to make an even bigger impact utilizing our resources. When the opportunity came to pull together this event in such a short amount of time, we knew it was going to be a lot of work, but absolutely worth it,” said Misty Rae Ruthrauff, marketing director for Saltwater Restaurants, Inc.


“It’s amazing how many volunteers will come together and make things happen when the simple goal is to help our neighbors. Our Emerald Coast community is full of so much love and compassion, and it reflected at the Cheers for Charity event. We are so grateful to have raised over $22,000 in this short amount of time.”


“Many lives in the Panhandle were touched as a result of this event,” said Steve Kotowske, founder of Pawsitive Love Foundation. “It sends a clear message of community to our friends in the path of Hurricane Michael.”


Throughout the Boardwalk, attendees enjoyed an assortment of live music performances who all graciously donated their talents, including OutShine, a high-energy cover band from Birmingham, Alabama; acoustic sets from Myke VanNess and Chavis Hobbs; country vibes from NASH Next winner Jessie Ritter; and ukulele duo Silvia Madriaga and Dave Dennison.


Fundraising efforts included raffles with thousands of dollars in items including getaways, artwork, and a surfboard from Fluid Surf Shop. Ten percent of all restaurant sales from Rockin Tacos, Floyd’s Shrimp House, and The Crab Trap were donated to the cause, in addition to sales from other Saltwater Restaurant properties, including The Surf Hut in Miramar Beach and The Crab Trap in Destin.


“Panhandle Prayers is very thankful for being included in the Cheers for Charity event.  We look forward to using the proceeds to help fix or replace uninsured vehicles that were damaged by Hurricane Michael,” said Gil Osterloh, one of many coordinators of the event and co-founder of benefiting charity Panhandle Prayers.


The event wrapped up with a very emotional performance from Bay County local Wade Rinehart. His song “850 Strong” was inspired by the aftermath of the storm, and you can listen to the story of how Mr. Rinehart wrote the song and is using it to help his community at


Cheers for Charity concluded with a Veteran’s Day weekend fireworks show off the Okaloosa Island pier.
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