Family Focus

Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s 35th annual Bass Tournament to begin May 16

PALATKA, Fla. — The 35th annual Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament will return to Palatka from May 16 to 18.


Since the first boats launched in the St. Johns River in 1989, the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament has grown to welcome more than 1,000 anglers each year.

While the tournament’s size has, changed, its mission remains the same. Founded by the Plant Facilities Department of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville in 1989 to fund capital improvements and purchase the latest medical technology, the tournament has raised more than $7 million for Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the patients treated there.

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The only children’s hospital in Northeast Florida, Wolfson Children’s serves children across the region with routine and complex conditions, including congenital heart disease, cancer and blood disorders, neurological conditions and traumatic injuries.

In 2024, as they have for the last several years, the proceeds will benefit Wolfson Children’s C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Heart Institute. It’s the only program in Jacksonville that provides a full range of cardiac services for children across the region, including 2-year-old Oliver Martin, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident and the 2024 Wolfson Children’s Bass Tournament AmBASSador.

Shortly after birth at Baptist Medical Center South in Jacksonville, doctors noticed Oliver’s chest was moving rapidly while breathing. After some initial testing, he was transported by Kids Kare helicopter to Wolfson Children’s Hospital Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit in Downtown Jacksonville.

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Oliver was diagnosed with an aorto-left ventricular tunnel, a very rare congenital heart defect that disrupts proper blood flow and causes difficulty breathing. At 5 days old, Oliver underwent a successful open-heart surgery to repair the defect.

“Oliver is now a typical toddler boy,” said his mom, Amanda. “He loves trucks and balls, is always running around with a snack or 2 in his hand and talks nonstop. To see how happy he is, you’d never know he had such a difficult start to life. I can’t thank the entire medical staff at Wolfson Children’s Hospital enough. Not only did they save a life, but they also gave a new purpose to ours.”

Sam Dean, tournament co-chair and Baptist Health system director of Plant Facilities, said he continues to be inspired by children like Oliver and the tremendous support the tournament receives from anglers who come from across the Southeast, many of them for generations, to participate.

“While they have a passion for fishing, they also have a passion for making a difference in the lives of Wolfson Children’s patients,” said Dean, who also helped organize the first event in 1989. “These are anglers with a heart.”

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Along with the thousands of anglers in attendance, more than 100 volunteers from Baptist Health, Wolfson Children’s, the City of Palatka and area businesses, including title sponsors Miller Electric and W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors, Inc., join together to make the tournament a success year after year.

“I’m so thankful to be a part of such an important event. As the tournament grows, so does the support for Wolfson Children’s. It’s been incredibly rewarding to know that together we’re making a difference in the lives of children from across the Southeast,” said Brian Seay, tournament co-chair and executive vice president of Miller Electric.

Registration is now open for the 3-day event, which includes a Lads & Lasses Tournament on Thursday, May 16, followed by a VIP & Friends Tournament on Friday, May 17.

The 35th annual Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament kicks off at safe light on Saturday, May 18. More than $48,000 in cash prizes will be awarded during the 3-day event.

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Also returning in 2024 is the annual bass boat giveaway. For a suggested donation of $20, anyone may enter a drawing to win a 21′ 2024 Bullet Boat model 21XRS with a trailer, courtesy of Bullet Boats, valued at $97,000, with a motor to be included. Like the tournament, all proceeds will benefit the Terry Heart Institute.

“Everyone looks forward to the bass boat giveaway. It’s a fun event that has also become an important part of our fundraising efforts. If you can’t make the tournament, a suggested donation of $20 gives you a shot at a new boat while helping support Wolfson Children’s heart patients. It’s a win, win,” Dean said.

To register for the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass tournament, enter the bass boat drawing or donate to the hospital’s mission, visit

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