To some, Jeff Tutt is “The Tutu Guy.” His go-to skirt is hot pink, but he doesn’t care what people think — he does it while volunteering to put a smile on the faces of children diagnosed with cancer.
“I always tell people, give two or three hours of your time and it will change your whole outlook on life,” Tutt said.
He and about 70 others gathered just south of Coral Cove Park on Tuesday for the first Trashy Tutu event, benefiting both the mangrove shoreline that was about to be cleared of trash and the Chasin A Dream Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for children with cancer, cystic fibrosis and other life-threatening illnesses.
Rather than sport his usual getup, the hot afternoon called for a grass skirt, orange lei and wild yellow wig.
“I went ‘aloha,’” Tutt said of his outfit.
Some participants in bright tutus balanced on paddleboards in the Intracoastal Waterway while others combed the shore by land.
For Heidi Kaye, participating in this event allowed her to contribute to two causes at once.
“Paddleboarding is a new passion of mine,” she said. “Spending more and more time on the water and seeing how much cleanup it needs, it’s now one of my goals to keep our waters clean.”
She thinks area residents take pretty good care of their environment for the most part.
“But when we notice it in decline, I think we’re all on board to jump in and do what needs to be done.”
Lori Griffith, who started Chasin A Dream, said she was surprised by the turnout.
“Who pays to clean up trash?” Griffith said with a laugh. Especially on a Tuesday afternoon, she added.
She estimated that with the $20 participation donation, which included a drink at Blue Pointe Bar and Grill and a raffle ticket, she had raised more than $1,000. Those who want to donate can do so by visiting chasinadream.org/donate.
That money will go toward the foundation’s hospital backpack program, which gives backpacks filled with blankets, pillows, toiletries, toys and a diffuser with lavender or peppermint scents for kids dealing with nausea as a side effect of chemotherapy. Some backpacks, for kids diagnosed with cancer or cystic fibrosis, include an iPad or Amazon tablet, Griffith said.
Chasin A Dream was inspired by Griffith’s hobby-turned-photography business which she started when she worked as a manager in St. Mary’s Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit.
Seeing the devastation that families went through after a chilling diagnosis prompted her to start the foundation, and she used the same name as her photography business.
“I really wanted to make a difference,” Griffith said. “I kind of chucked it all and started this, which was a big leap from not having a paycheck and benefits and all the security of everything. I really believe in my heart there’s a need for this in the community.”
The foundation supports children in Palm Beach and Martin counties, and seeing everyone who came out for the cause was special for Griffith.
“It just makes me so grateful to live in this community,” she said. “It’s locals helping locals.”