It started in 2003, when the marine community learned that a good friend and colleague on the Outer Banks faced a very serious illness. Taylor Harrison, a talented and respected boat builder, was losing his battle with cancer, and members of the Dare County sportfishing family were devastated.
Soon after Harrison’s death, friends John Bayliss and Mike Merritt discussed how they could help Harrison’s two teenage children, Mallory and Alex, with their educational expenses. Merritt suggested starting a scholarship fund that was funded by an offshore fishing tournament featuring boats built in Dare County.
Thanks to these efforts, the short-term goal of raising money to cover Mallory and Alex Harrison’s educational expenses had been achieved, and both children successfully furthered their education.
After several successful tournaments, it was apparent that the efforts of the annual fundraiser needed to expand. In 2007, the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation formed in the spirit of helping families like the Harrisons and beyond.
Today, the Boat Builders Foundation is a stand alone 501c3 nonprofit, supported by local and national businesses and individuals who believe that everyone should have the chance to further their education beyond high school. Each year, the Boat Builders Foundation awards financial aid and assistance to those who apply and qualify. In 2017, the Boat Builders Foundation awarded $71,000 to 16 high school and 28 college and graduate students, and also pledged for the fourth year in a row to donate $15,000 to Dare County High Schools towards the College Advisor Position. From 2010 – 2017, the Boat Builders Foundation has awarded $531,350 to Dare County students whose families are in the marine industry.
It is important to the board of directors to preserve funds and continue this tradition. “The decision was made by our board to maximize our existing funds and establish a reserve fund for our organization,” said Jason Waughtel, treasurer of the Boat Builders Foundation.
“We have established two funds with the Outer Banks Community Foundation to accomplish this goal. The first fund is called Dare County Boat Builders Endowment Fund, which is a permanent endowment that will provide scholarships to Dare County students for generations to come. The Community Foundation matched the Boat Builders’ initial contribution of $2,500 dollar-for-dollar as part of the Community Foundation’s Matching Fund Challenge.”
He continued: “The second fund is called Dare County Boat Builders Access Fund, which is our reserve fund to provide our organization another option to help fund our scholarships to Dare County students. Both of these funds will help secure financial stability and security for the future.”
The Outer Banks Community Foundation manages 50 scholarship programs on behalf of families, churches, civic groups, nonprofits, and businesses across the Outer Banks. Since the organization’s inception in 1983, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $1.9 million in scholarships to over 1,500 Outer Banks students.
Anyone can establish a scholarship endowment with the Community Foundation, or contribute to one of the existing scholarship funds, including the Dare County Boat Builders Fund and the Dare County Boat Builders Access Fund. For more information, or to contribute to either of these funds, call 252-261-8839 or visit www.obcf.org.
Students interested in applying for a Boat Builders Scholarship can learn more at www.dcbbf.org.