Green was for money, not a flag at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Futures Foundation for Volusia County Schools “roasted” Gator at the annual fundraising dinner in the Rolex 24 Lounge at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night. The “gator” being Bert Reames, generally referred to as “Gator Bert.”
It is not unusual for Reames to reach into his pocket and hand his listener a dollar coin in a small plastic bag. One side of the coin has a label that reads, “Keep in your pocket and you will never be broke - Gator Bert, along with an image of an alligator. His wife Julie said the denomination has increased over the years from a quarter to half dollar, and now a dollar.
Being born and raised in Gainesville, the nickname could easily be a nod to his alma mater, the University of Florida, but it isn’t. The inspiration was an actual alligator that he ended up with when given a baby alligator decades ago by an acquaintance. He quickly learned that alligators are not good pets.
The 91-year-old, the guest of honor at the event, sat on the stage, giving as good as he was getting, as Charlie Lydecker and Dr. Harold Kushner conducted the roast.
Other guest speakers at the event included Volusia’s Teacher of the Year Chef Jason Kester and Chris Evans. Evans, who graduated from the University of Central Florida and now works as an account executive at Brown & Brown Insurance, spoke of the positive changes the Take Stock in Children program had on his life.
During the evening guests made silent bids on items on tables that lined one hallway. Items included spending a day in the life of Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell, and a cooking class for six with Kester. One of the more lively bidding “wars” was during the live auction, for a ride-along with Sheriff Mike Chitwood which ended at $1,400.
The final tally for the fundraising evening wasn’t completed on Monday, but Executive Director Cynthia Ramirez said it was more than $80,000, all for the students of Volusia County.