Hands Helping Paws: Lani Kai bartender continues Thanksgiving tradition
Six years ago a new tradition formed after a server on Fort Myers Beach woke up wanting to give back one Thanksgiving morning.
Sandy Knapp, who has been bartending at Lani Kai for almost 30 years ago, said she woke up feeling lucky for the life she led, and wanted to do something nice.
“Animals and children are my passion. That Thanksgiving I decided to donate my tips and use those tips for food and supplies for ARC (Animal Rescue Center),” she said of the no-kill shelter in North Fort Myers.
“I have eight animals – four dogs and four cats and they are all rescues,” Knapp said. “It brings so much joy to my life knowing I have rescued them and given them a home.”
One of the dogs she rescued was afraid and abandoned on the streets of Sarasota after Hurricane Harvey. The dog eventually made its way to Bailey’s Way Rescue and Knapp became a foster for the dog.
This is when Knapp fell in love; she realized how happy the dog had become.
“He knew he was safe,” she said. “Animals and children have no say in what happens to them, or control, and that is why I care so much.”
Knapp said it has been a great journey to see her passion grow leaps and bounds.
“To see so many people care about animals and care about me because they make me so happy,” she said through tears of what touches her the most. “It started off with little ole me buying cat food and dog food. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when everyone gets together.”
The first year, Knapp said patrons would tip an extra $5 when they found out what the tips were going towards. With more than $300, she purchased dog and cat food, cleaning supplies and cat food.
Fast forward to last year, Knapp collected $1,875 from tips and raffle items. That amount increased after two of her friends said they would match what she raised.
“I raised almost $6,000 on Thanksgiving Day in a matter of a few hours,” she said.
In addition to tips, friends of Knapp donated such items as personal watercraft rentals, massages, artwork, a stay at Lani Kai and restaurant gift certificates.
Additional donations are welcome.
“We’d love for members of the community to feel free to make any type of donation for this charitable cause,” Lani Kai Island Resort Marketing Director Melissa Schneider said.
Those who would like to make a donation can call Knapp at (239) 560-8297, message the Lani Kai on Facebook, or email Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, the Thanksgiving act of kindness, Hands Helping Paws, will raise money for both ARC and Bailey’s Way Rescue.
“They don’t have land, they have volunteers. They pull an animal from a shelter that is going to be put down,” she explained.
Individuals foster animals until they are adopted.
The money raised during Hands Helping Paws is used to pay down some of the vet bills for the animals rescued by Bailey’s Way Rescue.
“They have standing accounts with the vets. I would pay down the vet bill,” she said.
The community is invited to visit Lani Kai Thanksgiving morning starting at 11 a.m. to take part in the act of kindness.
“People can come down when the bar opens,” Knapp said, “and buy drinks from me.”
Raffle tickets are $1 for one, or six for $5. The raffle winners, who must be present, will be announced at 5 p.m. She said they will have 10 to 12 items for the raffle.
“Each item that we are raffling off will be sitting on the table,” she said. “A jug will be next to a particular item. You choose what you want to raffle. You pick and choose which items you want to try to win.”
This year a 50/50 raffle will also be a part of the event, she said, so individuals can also win some money.
For those who would like to also enjoy a Thanksgiving meal or make a day of it, Knapp said The Island View restaurant upstairs at the Lai Kai will offer a “fantastic” Thanksgiving buffet.
The Lani Kai is at 1400 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach.