Martin and Llisiana Purdy at Gracie’s Big Splash in August 2012.
BELLEAIR – Something new for the kids is coming to Gracie’s Big Splash this year – a 73-feet obstacle water course.
“As far as water slides go, that’s the granddaddy,” said Llisiana Purdy. “It’s certainly bigger than anything we’ve had at the splash.”
She and her husband, Martin, established a new foundation that will benefit from the annual event, which is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 16, 5:30 to 9 p.m., at the Dimmitt Community Center.
Gracie’s Big Splash stems from the death of the Purdy’s daughter, Gracie, on April 21, 2008. She suffered from a rare brain tumor.
“We always try to add something different or a little twist every year,” Martin said.
Numerous water slides, bungee jump, bake sale, raffles, Mark the Balloon Guy and food will be available along with a ladder truck that has become a popular hit with the kids.
“I can’t leave out the fire truck. Largo Fire Department comes every year,” Martin said. “They park over on Ponce de Leon and raise the ladder truck up over the field, turn on the big water hose and soak the kids,” he said. “They get a beautiful rainbow when they start to spray them. We call that Gracie’s gift from her.”
Proceeds from the event will go to the Gracie G. Purdy Foundation, which will continue to help families whose children have been diagnosed with terminal or catastrophic illnesses, as well as donate toward pediatric cancer research and fund other youth oriented projects in Gracie’s memory.
“We felt it was time we took it under our own wing and kept Gracie’s memory and legacy alive, rather than having others do it for us. We felt it was time to do it for ourselves,” Martin said.
Martin credited area resident Kathy Helmus for coming up with the idea of holding a fundraiser for Gracie in 2007. She and Belleair resident Karla Rettstatt organized the event quickly after they learned of her diagnosis.
“Kathy called it Gracie’s Big Splash and that’s how it started,” Martin said.
Since it began, about $15,000 annually has been raised on the average. Helping children, essentially, continues to be the goal.
“Karla Rettstatt was nice enough to let us use her foundation to disperse the funds that we took in because she already had an established foundation (the Wonders Foundation) and we were in no frame of mind to establish our own and didn’t even know if we wanted to,” Martin said.
“We’re very thankful for all her help. Llisiana and I were miserable for many years after Gracie passed away. If it wasn’t for Karla keeping it going, this event probably wouldn’t be what it is today,” Martin said.
Rettstatt said she was blessed to have been given the opportunity to keep the event going until the Purdy family was ready to make it their own.
“I always felt Gracie's presence when working not only on the Splash but the families we helped through the years. It is always so rewarding when people come together for the betterment of others. They are all wonderful moments,” she said. “A string of such moments can change the course of life and enrich it. I think I can safely say that we have all been very enriched by this experience and are excited for the next Splash.”
Being in the auto repair business, Martin frequently hears about families in need.
“I get a lot of calls from Hospice about families who can’t afford to get their cars fixed. They need to be able to get to All-Children’s Hospital and Shands and take these doctor trips. It’s a daily thing sometimes. The car breaks down and it’s a disaster. So we really have been able to help out a lot in that department. It’s easy relief to give them help when they need it,” Martin said.
Admission to Gracie’s Big Splash, which has been referred to as an end-of-summer event for Belleair, is $10. The Dimmitt Community Center is at 918 Osceola Road.
“Gracie's Big Splash is the exclamation point to our summer camps,” said Parks & Recreation Director, Eric Wahlbeck. “It is always scheduled for the last day of our summer camp, and the kids look forward to it all summer long. Really, all year long. It’s the kind of event that the kids will remember forever. It's very well run and unique and benefits a great cause. We feel fortunate to be involved with the Purdy family and their foundation.”
For more information about the Splash or to make a donation to The Gracie G. Purdy Foundation, contact Llisiana or Martin by calling 559-0993 or send an email to Llisiana Purdy at GBS@tampabay.rr.com.
Seeing the relief that is provided to children means much to the Purdys and makes them appreciate all the individuals who have been involved, Llisiana said.
“You can’t believe how healing and rewarding it is to help others in the same situation we were in,” Martin said. “It’s a fabulous feeling. We would love to have no sick kids, but unfortunately that’s not the case.”