Since its inception in 1989, the annual Shell Key West Challenge tournament has provided a wonderful opportunity for Shell employees, jobbers, and vendors to gather together for three days of outstanding fishing in the Fabulous Florida Keys. But more importantly, each year the tournament raises thousands of dollars for charities.  In fact, during the past 25 years more than $2 million in contributions have been made, first to the National Mental Health Association, and over $475,000 to the Diabetes Research Institute.


The Shell Key West Challenge was the brainchild of Jo and Hayden Blaylock, of Blaylock Oil Company in Homestead, Florida, who in 1988 decided to create an event as a fundraiser for the National Mental Health Association.  The tournament was almost immediately a great success and within a few years annual donations of $100,000 were commonplace. Jo was the driving force behind many of the more successful fundraising elements of the tournament and when she passed away in 1998 after a long and valiant battle with cancer, the tournament reached the $1 million mark in total contributions. In all, more than $1.7 million was donated to help promote mental health causes and eliminate the stigma of mental illness. 

When Matthew Sanchez (Hayden’s grandson) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes seven years ago at the age of five, the family decided to use the Shell Key West Challenge to help the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) continue its efforts to search for a cure through cellular transplant therapy. To date, nearly $475,000 has been contributed to the DRI.


In March 2009, the Shell Key West Challenge was given permanent recognition at the Diabetes Research Institute as a way of thanking the Blaylock-Sanchez family and the executives from Shell Oil. At the ceremony, tournament board members, Shell Oil representatives, and Blaylock-Sanchez family members were recognized for their efforts by DRI Foundation President and CEO Robert A. Pearlman. “As a thank you for your generous efforts and commitment to helping the DRI find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, we have dedicated a room here at the Institute to show our appreciation for your continuing support,” Pearlman said. “We are proud to have Blaylock Oil and Shell as part of the DRI’s family and hope to continue this relationship for years to come.”


The room now bearing the inscription “Shell Key West Challenge in honor of Matthew Sanchez” is the office of one of the DRI’s leading scientists, Dr. Luca Inverardi, who met and befriended the Sanchez family upon Matthew’s diagnosis.  Appropriately for the dedication, Dr. Inverardi is an avid fisherman who has participated in the tournament the past five years.


As the 2018 Shell Key West Challenge approaches, the Blaylock-Sanchez family and many of the employees at Blaylock Oil Company are hard at work making certain that this will be the best year ever. Please plan to join us from April 26th through April 29th for great fishing in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We guarantee you'll have a wonderful time as we help the DRI find a cure for Matthew and the millions of other children and young adults suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

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