Sometimes, when people talk about caring about our police, firefighters, EMS and paramedics, military veterans, health care professionals and teachers, it comes down to lip service. With The Craig McKenzie Team Foundation, organizers of the Oak Harbor’s Hydros for Heroes event, it’s a passionate matter of the heart.
Craig McKenzie, a retired Navy veteran, Realtor and owner of Better Homes and Gardens McKenzie Realty, spends all year building strong relationships with those in Oak Harbor and the surrounding Northwest community who are part of those Hero groups. Co-Conspirator Jim Woessner, a managing broker at the real estate firm, is equally involved in the mission to support law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and paramedics, military members, healthcare professionals and teachers. These are the “Heroes” in the Hydros for Heroes event and their Homes for Heroes real estate program.
“Hydros for Heroes is a fundraising event that provides help, support and college scholarships for those who are part of these hero groups, and without Craig and Jim’s passion driving this seventh annual event, none of it would happen,” says Alia Rossi, Hydros for Heroes Agent Relations Administrator at BHG McKenzie Realty.
As a teen, Jim raced around on hydroplanes in a racing club called the Whidbey Roostertails with his friends, meeting legends like Chip Hanauer and Bill Muncy. He has many fond memories of that time and when he dropped out of racing, he never thought that years later that he’d have a chance to invite the racers to come on board with the cause for our Heroes. His mission was to make it not just a fundraising event for Heroes, but a legitimate racing event.
“During the last several years we have built one of the premier racing events in the entire nation and the only non-profit event that we are aware of in the country,” he says. “The race teams love our event. In fact, we have been awarded many awards by the racing community for our event and get national attention. This year we are even getting recognized on King 5 TV with a special that will be broadcast just before our event.”
With everyone from hydro race drivers to behind-the-scenes crew volunteering their time, the free, fun, family event features hydroplane races and other lively demonstrations Sept. 9 and 10 in Oak Harbor Bay.
In addition to races featuring various classes of boats, the event includes demonstrations, including the Puget Sound North Dragon Boats Association, plus vendors, beer gardens and a car show. The U.S. Navy will even present a jaw-dropping search-and-rescue helicopter demonstration in the afternoon and a fly over at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning.
A passion for giving back
As a retired Veteran, Craig wants the community to feel the gratitude he has for local Heroes year-round. Beyond Hydro for Heroes, Craig’s Real Estate Firm also offers a Heroes commission program, part of the larger Homes for Heroes Program and foundation operating in both the U.S. and Canada.
“When a sale closes, Craig and his brokers take 30 percent of their commission and they give 5 percent to the Homes for Heroes program and 25 percent directly to that Hero buying or selling the home with Better Homes and Gardens McKenzie Realty,” Alia says, noting that to date, the team has given back over $2.1 million specifically to their homebuyers and sellers of these heroes groups. On average, their Heroes receive a rebate of $3,100 whether they’re buying or selling real estate with BHG McKenzie Realty.
The team is proud of making dreams come true in a power-packed way. “We make a more meaningful and lasting impact, instead of giving multiple smaller donations,” Alia says. “Recently, we helped fund a young lady going to college, so she could finally realize her dream of being a PACU nurse.”
The efforts speak to the people who work with the realty office and foundation, she reflects. “They see outside of themselves and are willing to be a constant part of this massive ‘give back’ to the Heroes in our community.”
Hydros for Heroes is a big part of that, Jim notes.
“In the end, after putting on a great show for 10,000 to 15,000 people, we get to give some money back to our community and support our hero families. It certainly is a win-win for both our community and the racers, and we’re excited to be part of it. “