Fundraiser for wounded pub owner draws huge crowd
The street scene on Bougainvillea Lane last Saturday night was off the charts: upbeat and festive, with loud live music, a cornucopia of food and drink, and a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people – all of which was pretty extraordinary considering that the event was an ad hoc response to a traumatic near-fatal shooting.
When 31-year-old St. Ed’s graduate and pub owner Andy Capak was gravely wounded on March 31 on the eve of his wedding, his friends quickly mobilized and turned what was supposed to be a nuptial celebration into a huge fundraiser to help pay the well-liked local businessman’s medical bills.
Capak and business partner Jared Smith have owned The Grove, a pub on 14th Avenue in downtown Vero Beach, since 2012. Early on the morning of March 31, Capak reportedly intervened in an altercation outside his bar and was shot multiple times. He remains in Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce.
Lifelong pal and St. Ed’s high school classmate Ryan Wykoff, who was one of the first to get to the hospital, immediately realized his friend faced a long and costly road to recovery. In short order he set up a Go Fund Me page with $250,000 goal and started organizing a beachside fundraiser.
The response was instantaneous.
Wykoff’s mother and stepfather, Barbaralee and Rick Monday, who own the popular beachside coffee and wine bar Grind + Grape, offered to host the event, and Wykoff’s sister, Ashlee, jumped in to help.
Longtime-time Waldo’s manager Lee Olsen worked with Barbaralee to organize the event and get the necessary permits, while Wykoff spread the word to school pals, business associates and local bars and restaurants.
Posters, flyers and large banners were printed; Vero-based Indie rock band East Harbor, the group slated to play for the wedding celebration, set up its stage on Bougainvillea outside Grind + Grape, and a steady stream of items flowed in from local businesses for the silent auction, live auction and raffle – including a kayak, a bicycle, a Yeti, wine baskets, spa days, stays at local resorts, yoga lessons, a beachside pub crawl and much more. Raffle ticket cans were soon stuffed full.
“We almost ran out of tickets,” Wykoff said.
Managers and staff from other Vero bars and restaurants – Vinz, Frosting, Waldo’s and many others – donated food and drink, and manned stations all night long. “We might be competitors on a regular basis, but we come together to help each other,” said Richard Nelson from Blue Agave.
Wykoff estimated about 20 of Capak’s St. Ed’s high school pals and their spouses were in attendance.
The weather was fine and the crowd in the street, on the patio and inside Grind+Grape, continued to swell throughout the evening. Bobby’s Restaurant bartender Dougie Craner wasn’t surprised. “This town rolls this way. It’s an amazing place.”
The next day, Wykoff was still amazed at the scope of the turnout. And he remained reluctant to take much credit.
“The City and the Police Department were great in working with us. It was everybody – good people doing good things. We set it up and organized it and Vero turned out. It took on a life of its own.”
The total amount of money raised so far has not been determined, but with $69,000 donated on line so far, and $14,000 or so from the live auction, Wykoff sees a total in excess of $100,000 as a strong probability. “Everything goes to Andy,” he said.
When Capak is well enough, Wykoff, promises, there’ll be a “Welcome Back to Work” party – and eventually a wedding.