GTF has its origins in the Don Hawley Foundation, established in March 1974 with the benefit of a $5,000 donation from Mr. Hawley himself.  

In addition to Mr. Hawley, the founding Board of Trustees included Carl Navarre, Sr., Michael Schamroth, Ben Hardesty and Frank Harding. Soon after, the IRS recognized the Foundation as an organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code. In 2011, the organization was renamed the Guides Trust Foundation to better reflect its vision / mission.

As an avid saltwater angler, Hawley recognized the importance of fishing guides as custodians of the Florida Keys inshore fishery. Guiding had always been a respected, yet precarious profession in the Florida Keys, subject to the vagaries of demand and without the benefits of paid vacation or healthcare coverage. Hawley intended the Foundation to provide an incremental level of support so that a career in guiding could attract full time, talented individuals and provide reliable income.

From the outset, the Foundation’s aim was to minimize administrative overheads and, thereby, maximize the impact of generous donations. This remains the case today, as substantially all of GTF’s workload is carried out by its voluntary Board of Trustees.

Essential to the success of GTF has been the amazing generosity of generation after generation of recreational anglers. Typically, benefactors are passionate flats fishermen and women who visit the Florida Keys and book guided fishing excursions on a regular basis. Many anglers view the relationships that are fostered with their chosen fishing guides as some of the most important in their lives.

A secondary source of funds was, and still is, generated through successful, long-standing, high-profile fishing tournaments. Such tournaments were conceived for a multitude of reasons, the most important being a desire to bring business to the Florida Keys fishing guides during quieter periods of the year.

In 1975, Dick Pope, Jr. organized the first Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly Tournament, the proceeds of which were directed to the Don Hawley Foundation. Over the years, other well-known tournaments, such as the Gold Cup, the Swamp Guides Ball, the Sugarloaf Showdown, the March Merkin, the Golden Fly and the All American Backcountry, have all benefitted GTF by both raising public awareness of its programs and services and, in turn, facilitating its fundraising efforts.

With the continued generosity of its many friends and supporters, GTF looks forward to continuing its vision of making a meaningful difference in the lives of Florida Keys inshore fishing guides, the fishery in which they operate, and the communities in which they live.

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