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Wakefest organizers recognized for changing lives

This month’s winner is Adam Gilbert who uses a sport he loves to help local families in need. Gilbert is the President of Wakefest Georgia. Wakefest is a wakeboarding tournament that began in 2009 that turned into a benefit./Tosin Fakile

FOX 31 is honoring our local heroes with the Jefferson Awards.

The Jefferson Award is the nation's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to celebrating public service.

This month's winner is Adam Gilbert who uses a sport he loves to help local families in need.

Gilbert is the President of Wakefest Georgia. Wakefest is a wakeboarding tournament that began in 2009 that turned into a benefit.

"We'd kind of always wanted to do it. A good buddy of mine that I used to work with Jason Sheffield told me, you ought to do this as a benefit or turn it into a tournament. And then we just kind of threw some ideas together and they all snowballed," said Adam Gilbert, President of Wakefest Georgia. "We wanted to have a tournament in the morning to raise some money for a family and we just kind of came up with Wakefest as one thing. So you get to wakeboard and you get to raise money as well and it was icing on the cake for the whole scenario," he added.

Families that benefit from the event are chosen through word of mouth.

"This year's recipient is a local. He lives in Dawson and he's been a family friend for many many years. And it's that much more when you can help out a family person as well as a normal friend," Gilbert said.

Even though its one day dedicated to help change the lives of the family members, the effect is long lasting.

"I had a recipient a couple years ago that we still talk. I mean I wouldn't say daily but still message on Facebook back and forth and she's written me a huge letter of how it's changed their lives and helped out for the better," Gilbert said. "It's not that we're trying; that we say they need the help it's just we want to help. Anything that we can do towards any kind of medical benefits or medical expenses, we want to help out with and so far it has," he added.

So far they've raised almost $50,000 since they started and money is raised several ways.

"The day of the event there's a rider's fee. Every rider pays to ride. Nobody has a problem with that because number one they know it's going directly to a family and number two there's the nicest wakeboarding boat that's out right now they get to ride behind that," Gilbert said.

He said they probably raise the most money through the sale of T-shirts. The names of all their sponsors who donate at least $100 is printed on the back of the shirts. Gilbert said they also have raffles and auction of items like guitars autographed by musical artists.

"We do hats and koozie and the day of the event we do beverages. We do food; anything you can really imagine to raise some money," Gilbert said.

It's a lot of planning but the reward is priceless.

"There's so much that goes into Wakefest. There's really 364 days that goes into Wakefest. Everyday it's a struggle to actually do," Gilbert said. "But once it's over with everything was worth it. The group of guys I have helping me out; I have five guys that I couldn't trade in for the world. We dislike each other all the way up to the event and when it's over we call each other on the way home like I can't wait for next year. It's so much but there's no way to explain the gratitude we get out of it," he added.

They recently added a concert to the program after the tournaments are over. And besides a fun event, Gilbert hopes people remember to not take life for granted.

"I hope they take away the part that life is precious. Not every day is promised and not everybody is as luck as you to be up and walking around and enjoying life the way everybody does," Gilbert said.

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