YBOR CITY — A recent fundraising luncheon was missing its namesake.
But loyal family members, friends and supporters of the late coach Bill Minahan still came together to remember him. They also came to carry on his cause of helping those in need of an organ transplant or those who have received an organ.
The first Coach Minahan Memorial Luncheon was May 2 at the Columbia Restaurant, which for five years hosted the Coach “Wild Bill” Celebrity Luncheon. Those had raised more than $60,000 for the LifeLink Foundation’s Legacy Fund, which provides assistance to transplant patients.
Minahan, who lived nearly 28 years with a kidney transplant, died in December.
“This event feels different,” emcee Linda D’Aquila told a couple hundred guests. “It’s the first one without Bill. And although he is not here, he is here with us in spirit. He has touched us all in some way.”
Speakers remembered the former coach and honored his wife, Martha, who continues to raise awareness of the need for transplant organs and funds for those who need assistance.
“Martha, Bill — where one ends and the other begins, I don’t know,” said LifeLink Foundation President Dennis Heinrichs.
Many volunteers or attendees at the event were organ recipients. They included former Chief Judge Dennis Alvarez, who told the guests, “You are donating life.”
For guest Jeff Eckhart, the event had special meaning. May 2 was also the ninth anniversary of receiving his transplanted heart.
Other speakers included the Minahans’ New Tampa neighbor and close friend, Wharton High School basketball coach Tommy Tonelli, and Plant High School football coach Robert Weiner.
Weiner spoke of being loved and giving love.
“I am football coach now because of Coach Minahan,” he said, “When we go outside those doors, what are we going to do to pass it on?”