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Walker pontoon business donates boat to veterans organization

Tom and Cori Sullivan, the owners of Tom's Toons, chose the Croton Sportsmen for Youth and Disabled Veterans to be the recipient of a donated pontoon.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As a flock of mallard ducks looks on, Tom and Cori Sullivan stand along the northernmost boat launch at Riverside Park. They say it's a weird ramp, so they're extra careful helping Ed Lewis back up his red RAM pick-up truck toward the water. 

On the back of that truck is a trailer hauling the newest boat in a small fleet belonging to the Croton Sportsmen For Youth and Disabled Veterans. It's a blue, newly-refurbished pontoon. And the Sullivans are joining Ed for the vessel's maiden voyage.

We first told you back in May about the Sullivans, their business called Tom's Toons, and their plans to donate the pontoon to the Croton Sportsmen. The engine was stolen from one of their boats and they figured if they were going to have to buy a whole new engine, they may as well donate the boat to an organization that could use it.

After a nationwide search, the Sullivans chose the Croton Sportsmen, who are based in Newaygo County. They got to work on a fundraising campaign that would allow them to pay for the new engine, and also a cover for the pontoon. 

The community responded.

"One of the coolest things was people reaching out with donations in memory of people who had served. We had people mail checks who they weren't familiar with GoFundMe or the online fundraisers, and they just they had to get involved. And that's what tipped us over. We ended up raising just under $5,000," Tom said.

The GoFundMe page is still up and any more money it raises going forward will also go to the Croton Sportsmen.

"I hope if people find it down the road and they donate, we can get more stuff for the boats to keep them in service or build another boat down the road - anything to keep those veterans on the water," Tom said.

On Thursday a bus full of veterans from the Michigan Veteran Homes will arrive in Newaygo County from Grand Rapids and a handful of them will be able to experience their first ride on the new pontoon.

"It's a very meaningful event with the vets. This is our third pontoon, thanks to these people," Ed said, gesturing to Tom and Cori.

"We continue to grow with the help of people like this. So actually, it's overwhelming for somebody to say, I want to donate you a pontoon. It's like - wow."

Ed and the Sullivans didn't know each other before this campaign. But the end result has created a friendship they'll never forget.

"When we were talking to Ed via text or the phone, Tom said that he felt like he had known Ed for a really long time. He seemed like a genuine guy, and getting to meet him in person, I'd totally agree with that," Cori said.

Ed and the Sullivans would also like to thank Genesis Trailers, Van's Sports Center, Meijer, Whitetails Unlimited, and Safari Club International for their contributions to the process.

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