Making a Difference

Paddle Against Cancer

Making a Difference in the World

By Betsy Judge

Publisher’s Note: I was asked recently what has most impressed me since buying this paper. I said it was all the people I’ve met and written about who were confronted with a huge life challenge and took it head on with grace and dignity. This is about Gene Evans, a stage 4 cancer survivor. He did just that.

“I got a second chance at life, but the giving back, I think, is even more fulfilling, because I know I’m helping others who are going through the same thing that I went through,” says Gene Evans in a video after receiving the Moffitt Cancer Center Spirit of Philanthropy Award in November.

Gene and Kate Evans show how it’s done. Gene was glad he got a second chance at life, but giving back and helping others is the best.

Evans, a Treasure Island resident and founder of Paddle Against Cancer, has raised $215,000 for research at Moffitt in the past six years through his event.

“I know this sounds funny,” he says taking a deep breath, “I was supposed to get cancer. I kept telling myself, I’m never going to ask myself, ‘Why me?’ I figured I got it for a reason and it will all become clear at some point, and maybe I got it because I’m strong enough to get through it, and I can help other people, so that’s why we’ve done this.”

He thought he was going to die when he received his diagnosis in 2009. “I kept telling myself, ‘I just need a fighter’s chance. I just need a fighter’s chance, if I can just have a chance,’.” The docs gave him that chance noting he was in excellent physical condition with the exception of cancer and that they would patch him up so he could get on with life.

With five surgeries and two bouts of radiation behind him, he’s done that and more. And not only has Paddle Against Cancer raised great amounts of money, check out the photos of last year’s event on Facebook; it looks to be loads of fun, which Evans confirms.

“It’s not a race, it’s a fun paddle and a lot of people that do competitive races really like coming out, because it’s just fun,” he says.

The fun is May 27 at the Club at Treasure Island which has hosted the event each year. Evans says it’s their largest and last year they had 304 paddlers and about 1,000 party goers.

Paddlers take their boards to the water at the start of the 2016 Paddle Against Cancer. In it’s seventh year, the event has raised $215,000 for cancer research.

Participants come from as far aways as Venezuela and Brazil and may use anything they can paddle to navigate either a 3, 5 or 7 mile route on the Intracoastal. Gene and wife Kate’s vessels of choice are paddle boards which they first tried in the Outer Banks in 2008. He refers people who need to rent boards to Suncoast Surf Shop or Island Action Sports.

They ask for a minimum donation of $35 to register. “We make most of our money through the sale of T-shirts and hats and tickets for the auctions and the drawings,” says Evans. “And we’ll have people that donate the day of that hear my story. We’ve had some very generous folks out there and Moffitt has been really good.” He says they will have some boards to give away along with some other good things.

Entertainment is provided by Tony Wagner as well as Big Brother Band. “Marcus (Big Brother) was on fire last year; he was so good,” adds Evans.

Party goers bat around a ball at the
post paddle party at the Club at Treasure Island which played host to about 1,000 people last year.

Three years ago he started recognizing someone who has or is battling cancer on the paddle of the event logo, designed each year by Rob Chapin owner of RC Design Studio. This year it’s Anna Hipp who works with Evans and is battling breast cancer. “So that’s my little nod to her; she’s toughing it out,” he adds.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “We’ve been blessed all around. There’s a reason that I’m still here.”

For more information or to register go to or find them on Facebook.