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MAKING A MARK: Wine, Women & Fishing tournament chair honors late friend

Fun and fundraising come together in a women’s charity billfish tournament. The chair, Linda Church, is committed to the fight against breast cancer.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Wine, Women & Fishing is an event all about women. 

Linda Church, the chair of the competition, always thinks of one woman in particular -- her friend, Debbi Bunn.

"She was a big personality," said Church. "Always had to be the center of attention. She was gorgeous."

Church said she'll never forget the day she learned Bunn had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Well, of course you cry," said Church, "But you just fight. And... you have to feel what you feel but be supportive to them. So, that's why I called her every morning at quarter of nine to tell her that I loved her."

Bunn lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006, and Church has been committed to finding a cure ever since.

"I'd always been raising money for breast cancer, but then it just became a lot more important," said Church.

She works to raise as much as possible each year through Wine, Women & Fishing, the Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation’s ladies-only billfish tournament, now in its 19th year.

"At Rudee Inlet we go out into the ocean, 65 miles offshore. We fish from 8:30 until 3," said Church. "We get dressed up in costumes. And it's usually [a] breast cancer-related theme, so you'll never see so much pink in one place."

"And then... the boats come in, and we have a party," said Church. 

Guava Jam is the headline band at this year's dock party. You can also watch the Crazy Crew contest, enjoy open bar and wine tastings and snack on refreshments.

The event has raised more than $850,000 for breast cancer research at Eastern Virginia Medical School. 

"[A] million's my goal. So, maybe we'll get there this year. I'm going to give it a shot," said Church. "I'm not afraid to ask for money. I'm not afraid to reach out and do what I need to do to make this tournament a success."

From decorated boats on the water to food and live music on land, Church said the weekend is a lot of fun; and Bunn would have loved it.

"She would have been on the stage dancing!... You just never knew what she was going to do. She was always fun," said Church. "So, what little part I can have in finding a cure for cancer, then I'm going to do it... 'cause I don't want her to be forgotten, 'cause she was bigger than life."

Wine, Women & Fishing is open to women of all fishing skill levels. All activities take place under the big tent at Southside Marina – 416 Southside Road, Virginia Beach. 

On Saturday, Aug. 14, registration will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and the captain’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 15, the tournament runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Dock Party starts at 5 p.m.

Click here to enter the tournament, buy tickets to the dock party or make a donation.