Rarely has an event sponsorship been so appreciated, so appropriate, and so timely as this year’s Put-in-Bay Piratefest IX Costume Put-in-Bay Piratefest Photocontest. This is really not a shameless plug, but more like a love letter. Thanks to the Cayman Islands, Cayman Airways and the Sunset House, Terry Robbins and his girlfriend are getting a trip of a lifetime. Rarely has an event sponsorship been so appreciated, so appropriate, and so timely as this year’s Put-in-Bay Piratefest Costume contest.

Terry has been coming to Put-in-Bay PyrateFest practically since it started. He’s a former member of the US Army Special Forces. A wounded veteran from Swanton Ohio, who goes by Captain Jack Calico Rockam during the Put-in-Bay PyrateFest. Terry loves being a pirate. I first met Terry last year. He was in a wheelchair, but he was every bit a pirate. He had one of the best costumes I had seen. I took his picture and asked his name. I should have asked about his life story.

Turns out that three years ago, Terry was bedridden and worried that his days were numbered. He asked his friends to bring him to the Put-in-Bay PyrateFest. If it was going to be his last year, he was not going to miss it. His friends brought him and he had the time of his life.
The following year, Terry underwent surgery and by the time Put-in-Bay Piratefest  VIII rolled around Terry was back again in a wheelchair. Wheelchair be damned, he came and entered the contest for best costume again, but lost to a “beautiful wench.” Alas.

So flash forward to Put-in-Bay PyrateFest IX, which was in full swing. We were running around taking pictures of “pyrates.” There were lots of really great costumes this year. I spied this guy who looked familiar. I went over and introduced myself.  Suddenly, I realized that this pirate in front of me was Terry. I blurted out, “Hey where’s your chair?” Terry smiled and said “Thanks for noticing.” Terry was walking and smiling. This had to be a flat out miracle! After his surgery and a year of physical therapy, this guy who thought he would never be able to walk again was ready for his shot at this year’s costume contest.

As the day progressed over 36 “pirates” had registered for the costume contest. Ty Winchester, in rare form as the  “Lord Mayor” of the contest host, brought up the 36 pirates one at a time. When Ty saw Terry standing on the stage, I’m pretty sure I saw a tear in the corner of his eye. When the judges had finalized their votes for the final three top contestants, they were locked in a tie between two, a mother who had handmade her Jack Sparrow costume including the amazing life-like wig and Terry.

They called Ty and asked him if he could break the tie. Ty went back to the stage and delivered a beautiful and heartwarming speech about Terry. I am certain there were many many moist eyes at Put-in-Bay Ohio as he completed the story and awarded this year’s winner, Terry Robbins, with a trip for two to stay at the Sunset House at the Cayman Islands aboard Cayman Airways.

I sure hope the folks in the Cayman’s hear about Terry’s story because it is a powerful reminder that life is always changing and good things can happen. I am certain that Put-in-Bay PyrateFest sponsor Jeff Ginther from the Cayman Island Tourism office got way more than he ever imagined when Terry won that June afternoon.

By Peter Huston