A group called Friends and Families 4 A Safe Panama City Beach held its first public meeting tonight at Arnold High School. They say the tragedies of the past should be enough to stop the party.
By now, you have heard these names: Shaun Wuertley, who used his job as a security guard at the Sandpiper Beacon to rape and nearly kill an Alabama girl last year.
Dakoda Matthews, who killed 20-year old Randy Nolan last week in a hit and run, before killing himself.
Justin Delval, who was found dead in a ditch this past month after allegedly drinking himself to death.
These are just three of the tragedies that Mark Canfora of Friends and Families 4 A Safe Panama City Beach is using to support the argument that Panama City Beach needs to get rid of Spring Break as we know it.
And although only thirty or so people showed up at Monday night's meeting, Canfora claims many people agree with him: "It's not just a bunch of religious fanatics that are doing this. There are businessmen, doctors and nurses that see the tragedies coming in the hospitals where they are."
Larry Perry, attorney at Perry & Young, says, "Even though it's against my best business interests to do this, I say no more, our families are affected, our communities are affected."
Canfora says Panama City Beach needs to shed the party image. He is modeling his ideas on other cities that got rid of Spring Break, like Ft. Lauderdale.
He says the Tourist Development Council already has two weeks dedicated to families, and he believes his organization could help fill the other three weeks: "We can reach out to groups that don't need drugs, don't do alcohol, and they spend a lot of money. And it's a good time."
He says youth groups, sports teams and other national organizations could revitalize the beach's image. And families could even boost the economy, so businesses would be helped, not hurt.
Canfora says, "Bring in moms and dads and grandparents that have the money, not the ten college kids in one room." Even though this was the first public meeting, Canfora hopes he can strike a chord with others who are sick of all the tragedy on the beach.
Friends and Families 4 A Safe Panama City Beach will be holding a celebration of life at the Pier Park amphitheater on Saturday, April 11. For more information, log on to www.safepcb.com.