SOUTH COUNTY- Ye Notorious Krewe of the Peg Leg Pirate, Inc. has been keeping amputees on the move since it first came into being in 2004.
A 501-C-3 tax exempt organization, the Krewe has provided prosthetics of all kinds: legs, ears and even one nose. Its special IRS tax status allows donors to take donations off their tax return.
“We work very closely with Ruskin VFW Post 6287, The Shriners Childrens’ Hospital in Tampa, and many other partners to give scholarships and financially support amputees all over the world,” said Fundraising Chairwoman Denise Reiter.
The Krewe partners with other groups too, including the Marine Corps League 1124 in Zephyrhills, to provide hand cycles to amputees. It and also supports two amputee parks, one in Virginia and the other in North Carolina.
Because of its charitable work, it has been admitted to the Inter-Krewe Council Inc., which is a Tampa-Bay-based council formed in 1992 to foster a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among member Krewes and to provide a forum for information about area parades and other Krewe-related activities.
As for the Krewe of the Pegleg Prate it has been extremely active in fundraising for amputees of all kinds.
“We’ve given $42,000 in scholarships to children all over the world,” Reiter said. “And non-scholarship help (including prosthetics and other devices to veterans and children) in the amount of $140,000.”
Money is also designated to help The Tampa Shriners Childrens’ Hospital and to pay for families’ hotel rooms while they are in the area for treatment.
Admiral Joe Hocter spent the last week of October working on the lead float for the Ruskin Veterans’ Day Parade Nov. 10. This year the Krewe will be the host float and carry dignitaries, including the local VFW Commander and District Commander, and Tony Zipperer of Ruskin who is the current Commander of the Krewe.
Each float takes somewhere between 700 and 800 hours to build and decorate, Hocter said.
The past two years the floats made by the Krewe have won Best Float in that parade, and have also taken the honor of Most Original float in the Bradenton Parade.
But even though they also take part in parades, including Gasparilla, fun and games isn’t what the Krewe is really about.
The Krewe was founded by Ruskin resident Shirley Huber after she lost a leg in an automobile accident. Started with just a few members, the number has now grown to 45.
Anyone can apply but the key to being selected for membership is that the applicant be a community-minded person who is truly interested in helping amputees.
Events are held throughout the year to raise money for amputees like the Halloween party at Smoky Bones in Brandon Oct. 27 that gleaned $5,500, which includes “in-kind” donations as well as cash. Some of the types of “in-kind” donations it receives are help with its website and time and materials for making the special bicycles.
“There’s something everyone who chooses to help can do,” Reiter emphasized.
The biggest event each year is the Annual Sporting Clays Benefit Shoot, which will be held for the eighth time on Feb. 23. The event is held at Tampa Bay Sporting Clays in Land O’ Lakes and 100 percent of the money raised will go directly to amputees said Hocter.
“We don’t use one dollar of it for anything, including costs. We give every cent,” he added.
Partnerships with many area businesses have made it possible to do remarkable things for amputees and their families including purchasing a tricycle for a 4-year-old who was missing one leg and both arms at birth and modifying it so he could turn the wheels with his chin; sponsoring six children a year in 2008 and 2009 at the week-long Adventure Amputee Camps in Virginia and North Carolina with several Krewe members driving to the camp in Virginia to put on a Pirate Party; and providing a tricycle for a child who had lost a leg in a boating accident.
Marty, a single father of three who asked that we only use first names of his family because of his under-age children, said he was introduced to the Krewe by physical therapist Pam Versage at the Tampa Shriners Childrens’ Hospital.
Marty had premature twin girls who are now 13, born at weights of 1 pound 10 ounces and 2 pounds 7 ounces. The larger twin did not have any disabilities but the smaller twin, Lexi, got a blood clot when she was one week one and doctors had to amputate a leg.
Since then, the family has returned to Shriners every few months for adjustments on a prosthetic leg as Lexi grows, and a whole new leg is molded every year. Marty said the legs look very lifelike in both color and muscular tone.
Meanwhile, the Krewe has supplied her with a hand tyke like the one pictured along with this story which she rides voluntarily at the Sporting Clays event to show donors what their help is accomplishing.
“She can hardly wait for the event each year,” Marty said. “As she outgrows the bikes we give them to younger kids and she gets a larger one.”
The tricycles have three wheels, linked pedals, Velcro foot straps and Velcro straps to hold the child’s body upright.
The Krewe says donations may be directed toward specific projects if donor’s desire and sponsors at each level receive tangible benefits as well as a good feeling, including recognition certificates or plaques, banner promotions of their business at events, invitations to join the Krewe at a parade or possibly free tickets to the Shooting Clays event.
To find out more about the Krewe visit www.peglegpirate.com and click on “contact us.”