After his friend died on 9/11, Art DellaSalla was able to use boating as a way to honor his memory.
Art DellaSalla is a New Jersey-bred boater and angler who currently lives in Rye, New York. After his close friend Brett Bailey died in the second tower of the World Trade Center, DellaSalla helped found a mako shark tournament—the BTB Mako Rodeo—in his honor. Today Art runs the tournament along with members of the Bailey family, and raises money for the Brett T. Bailey Foundation, which contributes money to causes deemed to be in accordance with Brett’s memory.
Power & Motoryacht: How did you get into boating and fishing?
DellaSalla: I guess from my father. My father is into it, so I got into it at a young age. And pardon the pun, I got hooked. I still fish with him to this day quite frequently. And I have a 6-year-old son, and I’m pretty psyched, his attention span is limited, but as long as we’re catching fish he likes to be out there too.
Power & Motoryacht: What kind of boat do you have?
DellaSalla: Right now we have a 44 Henriques that my dad and I bought in 2003. I love this one. It was the last 44 that they built and in its class I think it’s one of the best sportfishers out there. The Henriques people are awesome to work with. Plus it’s a Jersey company, they built it not far from where I grew up.
Power & Motoryacht: Best day of fishing ever?
DellaSalla: Probably catching 12 white marlin in the Mid-Atlantic tournament two years ago on the last day. Crystal-blue and calm water with a bunch of good friends onboard. Weather, fishing, guys in the boat, everything was all perfect.
Power & Motoryacht: How did the BTB Mako Rodeo come about?
DellaSalla: When Brett passed away, a lot of people made donations to different organizations in his name. And we wanted to organize it and put together an event that would raise money in his name. Brett was always charitable, even as a young guy—he was only 28 when he died. Charity is usually something that occurs to people when they’re older and they have some money, or time, to give back. But he always had a grasp on that. So we came up with an event that was tied into something he was passionate about, and that was shark fishing.
Power & Motoryacht: What were some of the challenges with setting it up?
DellaSalla: You know I think the first go-round there’s always logistical challenges. Thankfully we’ve always had a good number of people around to help. And we’ve always had a marina that’s willing to host us [Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle, New Jersey].
Power & Motoryacht: What’s the most rewarding thing about running the tournament?
DellaSalla: The same two reasons we started it. Keeping Brett’s memory alive and bringing together the people that loved him to have a good time. And obviously raising money to help people, in his name, is even more rewarding. We raise money for the Brett T. Bailey Foundation, a 501(c)(3), which gives to a New Jersey National Guard family-assistance program. They’ve received the lion’s share of money over the years. But we’ve given to other charities too. We’ve raised nearly $250,000 total, I’d guess.
Power & Motoryacht: Where does the Mako Rodeo go from here?
DellaSalla: I just hope it continues to grow and keep its core. I hope we can continue to bring people together and raise money for worthy causes.
Power & Motoryacht: Any words of advice for anyone thinking about starting their own boating-related charity?
DellaSalla: The best advice is to get some help. We have Fidelity [Investments] as our administrator, and they help us immeasurably with due diligence to make sure our money goes to the right places in the right ways. That relieves a lot of the headaches.
And two, make sure you have a rain date set so everything can fall into place logistically, just in case on the big day Mother Nature doesn’t make the on-the-water portion of the activity so much fun, as any fishermen knows she can tend to do.
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.