PORT RICHEY — It’s always fun to help a good cause, especially if it means enjoying a couple of cold beers near the water.
The 2019 Brews on the Bayou was held on May 11 at Gill Dawg in Port Richey. The event allowed people to taste a variety of beer and wine while raising money for the Justin Haystrand Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Haystrand, a football player at Peru State College, in Nebraska, passed away in February 2018. The foundation raises money for two scholarships each year. One is awarded to a River Ridge High School student, his alma mater, and one to a Peru State football student.
The event raised around $5,000 after expenses, which doesn’t include the prize drawings that were held.
This was the third time Brews on the Bayou was held, and about 250 people came out to enjoy the drinks and fresh air. There were also vendors and prize drawings and The Bearded Brothers provided live music.
Colleen Suojanen, the self-described “Alpha Female” of Gill Dawg, said that the main change that was implemented since Brews on the Bayou began three years ago is the free admission.
The first time it was only paid entry. We found that making it free and family friendly is best, said Suojanen.
She also believes that the venue is what makes the fundraiser stand out from similar events.
Our venue is one of a kind, Suojanen said. The event is more like a festival feel than a craft beer event.
The scholarship foundation holds a special place in her heart as her family is friends with the Haystrand family.
“I have known Justin and his family for close to 10 or 12 years, our kids went to school together,” Suojanen said. “They have had so much tragedy and loss in recent years. They deserve some happiness. This foundation brings some joy to them by providing scholarships to young people who would have been Justin’s peers.”
She credits Justin’s loved ones with the success of the event.
“I love the fact that the community of friends and family that Justin has worked so hard to put on this event,” Suojanen said.
The previous Brews on the Bayou events benefitted the nonprofit agency Youth and Family Alternatives but a new beneficiary was needed for the 2019 event.
Denise Haystrand, Justin’s mother and president of the Justin Haystrand Memorial Scholarship Fund, said she was happy to be spotlighted at the annual occasion.
“We approached them about possibly doing a yearly fundraiser there, and when YFA gave up their spot with Brews on the Bayou, we quickly agreed to take it over,” Haystrand said.
The sponsors included J.J. Taylor and MillerCoors.