LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. - Leaving a dollar bill on the walls of the Mar Vista Restaurant is a tradition that goes back to its fish camp days.
“Fisherman would come in, and they would write their name on a dollar and put it over their seat at the bar at the table. And if they went out and they didn't catch any fish, they would have enough money for a sandwich and beer when they came back in,” explained Mar Vista Restaurant marketing director Caryn Hodge.
Now it is just a cool way to leave your mark behind in the popular seafood restaurant. “People come back year after year to find their dollar and see if their dollar is still up there.”
But this week, Mar Vista started taking down many of the dollars that adorned their walls so they could donate the money to the family of Austin Goncalves.
“We will turn them in and cut a check to Austin's family to help with his medical bills.”
Austin and his buddy Marlin Ellis were hospitalized during a recent spear fishing trip in the Bahamas. Both boys were diagnosed with ciguatera poisoning, an illness caused by eating large reef fish that contain toxins.
“They were fishing specifically in a certain area were they have coral and these fish eat the parasite off the coral. We don’t have coral and we don’t typically serve the fish they were spearfishing for. It is not really a commercial fish.”
The boys were flown on a medical flight from Bahamas to a Miami hospital which alone cost $10,000 each.
“It is a small community and we are happy to help,” said Hodge.
People who acquire ciguatera may experience nausea, vomiting and neurological symptoms. There is no cure for the sickness and symptoms usually go away in a few days or weeks but can last for years.
The Goncalves family is holding a benefit for Austin at the Blue Marlin Restaurant on Saturday, August 2nd from 10am until 4pm. to help cover some of the cost of their medical expenses.