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Fins Weekend 2011
WHEN: Thursday, June 9 - Saturday, June 11, 2011
WHERE: Fairmont Turnberry (Golf) / Miami Beach Marina (Fishing)
Dan Marino
Ex-Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino putting at the Fairmont Turnberry Resort in Aventura. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Bancroft/Miami Dolphins).
Chad Henne
Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne hitting a wood at the Fairmont Turnberry Resort in Aventura. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Bancroft/Miami Dolphins).
Mark Duper
Former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mark Duper waiting to putt at the Fairmont Turnberry Resort in Aventura. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Bancroft/Miami Dolphins).
Mike Dee
Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee teeing off at the Fairmont Turnberry Resort in Aventura. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Bancroft/Miami Dolphins).

THE GROUP OF CHARITIES that stands to prosper from the 15th annual Fins Weekend is impressive both for its sheer enormity, and for its undeniable, virtually indescribable impact on the South Florida community. A few examples of benefactors. Both the Broward and the Miami-Dade County Public Libraries Summer Reading Programs; Children's Book Week; the Miami Dolphins Outdoor Learning Center at Island Dolphin Care; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Junior Achievement; the Boys and Girls Club; the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center, Feeding South Florida; and the United Way.

All told, a staggering sum of more than $600,000 was generated from the three-day event that began with a kickoff party inside the über-posh Harry Soffer Room at the Fairmont Turnberry Resort in Aventura on Thursday evening. A day of golf that included 34 foursomes took place on the property's two championship-caliber courses the following morning, with the culmination coming in the form of an 83-boat offshore fishing competition that started at the Miami Beach Marina on Saturday.

Quite an explosion in growth from Year One. That was back in 1996 when the Miami Dolphins Foundation was created and the maiden Fins Weekend attracted 23 boats, yielding about $30,000 that was earmarked for local philanthropic causes.

Not only did every member of upper management (head coach Tony Sparano, general manager Jeff Ireland, chief executive officer Mike Dee, and senior vice president for corporate partnerships and integrated media Jim Rushton), come out for the events, but so too did about three dozen present-day and former players. Marino and Duper were there from the legendary 1980s squads, as were current guys like quarterback Chad Henne, wide receiver Brian Hartline, offensive lineman Jake Long, running back Lousaka Polite, center Mike Pouncey, linebacker A.J. Edds, and defensive back Tyrone Culver.

"We try to be responsive to everybody who calls and you can imagine that the phone rings a lot," said Dee, who relocated to South Florida in 2009 after a combined 15 years in the front offices of the San Diego Padres and then the Boston Red Sox. "Last year we were at 99.99 percent, in terms of something in the form of a donation or an auction item. We pride ourselves in batting 1,000, and the .01 percent that we missed was attributable to the fact that the charities didn't exist when we checked out the letters on which the requests came. So we are responsive to everyone in some way, shape or form. It's not always cash, but it's something."

This year's event also was an opportunity for team brass and players to mingle in the midst of great uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NFL season. It's been precisely three months since the players union officially decertified after negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement broke down. In response, the 32 league owners formally locked players out of their contracts.

As such, the two sides have been barred from having any substantive work-related dialogue. Exchanging pleasantries is allowed. Any communication beyond that would subject the offenders to disciplinary action by the iron-fisted commissioner's office.

"I'm eyeballing the heck out of them, to see if they're overweight or too skinny," joked Ireland. "It's good to see them and I appreciate them coming out to support our foundation. This offseason has been frustrating. It's going to be a whirlwind when [the lockout ends]. But we're prepared for it. You can say hello and you can do these functions, but you have to watch what you say. You can't really say what you want."

The fact that Polite donated his time for Fins Weekend should come as no surprise. Polite has assumed the role of the Dolphins' unofficial "Good Guy" since the departure of Jason Taylor to the Washington Redskins in 2008, and he was presented at the Hook & Tackle Captain's Party on Friday night with the organization's 2010 Nat Moore Community Service Award. That marked the second consecutive year Polite was bestowed the honor.

The focus of the MDF is four-fold, as it emphasizes health, education, youth athletic programs, and volunteerism.

The foundation's youth programs provide mentoring for approximately 160,000 kids in South Florida, and most notably, the MDF launched last November a two-day, tri-county bicycle ride, to assist in the UM Sylvester Cancer Center in its work to eradicate cancer. That event netted $500,000.

The Dolphins organization lost one its most beloved figures on April 26th when former tight end and WQAM gameday radio broadcaster Jim Mandich succumbed to cancer of the bile duct after a 14-month battle.

Fins Weekend holds an especially important place in the hearts of Marino and Ireland, as both are the fathers of children who've been diagnosed with autism. The affliction was detected early on in the life of Marino's middle son, Michael, who is now 23, and shows no signs of any social disorder. Ireland and his wife, Rachel, first noticed a developmental problem with their twin daughters, Hannah and Haley, when the girls were toddlers, but the exact problem was not known until they were seven years old.

"We try to do as much as we can for the autism groups here in South Florida, and that includes Dan Marino's," said Ireland, whose family participated in this year's Marino Foundation Walk About Autism, which raised in excess of $550,000. He also gives of his resources to CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders), which has facilities in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.

Marino first established his foundation in 1992, and to date, $22 million has been raised to fight autism.

In 1998, he and his wife, Claire, opened in Weston the Miami Children's Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center, which provides state-of-the-art care and treatment in a myriad of areas, including pediatric urgent care, rehabilitative services, neuro-developmental diagnosis and treatment, applied behavior analysis services, orthopaedic services, sports medicine, dermatology, cardiology, and psychology.

"My foundation is something I obviously have a lot of passion for," said Marino. " We raise money for kids with developmental disabilities, and that includes autism, and the Dolphins have always been big supporters of that. Jeff and I have done some fundraisers together. I've known him since he first came down here and we'd met before that. We have that same passion to try to raise money and awareness and help in any way we can. He's been very supportive of everything I've done and I'm going to support anything he wants to do."

Written by: DAVID COLEN
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