Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris made sure that residents of the Bahamas would have a Merry Christmas as they continue to recover from Hurricane Dorian.
Immediately following the storm, Morris announced the “Anglers for the Bahamas” effort to raise money for relief efforts, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The campaign was seeded by an initial $1 million from Bass Pro and Cabela’s, and Morris contributed an additional $1 million. Bass Pro also donated supplies, including tents and outdoor cooking kits.
Anglers for the Bahamas has raised more than $4 million for relief efforts, but Convoy of Hope spokesman Jeff Nene said Morris wanted to do more.
“He wanted to see the kids have fun and forget about the other things that are happening,” Nene told the News-Leader. “He wanted to give them a special Christmas they would never forget.”
So Morris brought the Bass Pro Shops’ Santa’s Wonderland to Freeport. A 40-by-150-foot air-conditioned tent, a snow-making machine and a herd of taxidermed reindeer created the Christmas atmosphere. For four days, Bahamian families experienced a Bass Pro-style Christmas. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 people visited the event.
“This event came from the mind and heart of Johnny Morris,” Nene said. “Bass Pro has been a partner with Convoy’s disaster relief for 20 years now. They have been a very solid partner.
“Anytime there is a major disaster, they have always come through, either with financial support or sometimes, even more importantly, in in-kind donations — tents, cook stoves, sleeping bags, you name it. For us the partnership is indispensable to what we do.”
Bass Pro Shops also brought its Outdoor Days attraction, which included air-rifle and archery stations and a kayak pool. FedEx provided planes to carry the supplies for the event, and Coca Cola provided beverages. Kid Casters donated nearly $200,000 worth of rod and reel combos, and Todd and Johanna Schuring donated 17,000 toys.
“It’s hard to imagine everything the wonderful people of the Bahamas have been through in the wake of the hurricane,” Morris said in a statement. “In hosting this event, we simply want to put big smiles on the faces of Bahamian children and create some magical Christmas memories they will never forget. Even as vital relief efforts continue, it’s just as important that we open our hearts to spread some joy and happiness to these children.”