With the benefit of $5,000 donated by Don Hawley, The Don Hawley Foundation was established in March 1974. In addition to Don Hawley, the founding Board of Directors included Carl Navarre, Sr., Michael Schamroth, Ben Hardesty, and Frank Harding.
In May 1974, the IRS recognized The Don Hawley Foundation as an organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(C)(3) of the internal revenue code.
The primary purpose of the organization was, and remains, to disperse funds to needy individuals, who are connected with the Florida Keys fishing industry, while recovering from sickness or injury. Grants are typically made after evaluation of the request and a recommendation by the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association (FKFGA). Additionally, The Don Hawley Foundation has funded an annual scholarship to a worthy Monroe County student majoring in marine related studies. The Foundation has also been active in awarding grants for fisheries research. As a leader in marine conservation focused on Tarpon and Bonefish research, the Foundation has been instrumental in protection and preservation of the species.
In 1974, Dick Pope, Jr. organized the first Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament. Proceeds were directed to The Don Hawley Foundation. Early proceeds from the Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament also helped in funding the Foundation. The Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament became the first catch and release tarpon tournament in 1987. It was not until 1995 that all tarpon required a special tag to be legally killed thus allowing fishing for world records to continue.
Beginning in 1989, the Commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association (FKFGA) was given a permanent position on the Hawley's Board of Directors. In the past Captains Mike Collins, Mike Ehlers and Tad Burke have filled that position. Currently the position is held by Captain Duane Baker. Two years later, the FKFGA's Swamp Guides Ball Fishing Tournament and Auction was established by the FKFGA. All proceeds have been donated to The Don Hawley Foundation.
Over the years the Foundation has assisted scores of Florida Keys inshore fishing guides during times of need. Gifts typically range from $10,000 to $15,000, which helps the guide pay for necessities, such as mortgage payments, prescriptions and putting groceries on the table while they are recovering from sickness or injury.
During its annual Board of Director's meeting in June of 2011 the Foundation Board voted to change the name of the Foundation to more closely align the Foundation with its primary beneficiaries, the Florida Keys inshore fishing guides. Beginning on June 15, 2011 the Foundation became known as …
GUIDES TRUST FOUNDATION (GTF)
With the continued support of its many friends and supporters, the (GTF) will carry on with its important work of making a positive impact in the lives and work of its beneficiaries.