Silvagni Maligned

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 01 June 2016 04:00

Dear Editor,
During the May 12th meeting of the Planning and Zoning Committee, a discussion on the town’s Itinerant Merchant agreement was held.  It is my opinion that several local business owners used the public discussion forum during this meeting as an opportunity to malign Tony Silvagni, the owner of Tony Silvagni Surf School.  If there are legitimate issues regarding any business and the degree to which a local business owner is or is not following local ordinances, then it is reasonable to address those in a town proceeding, however, when I watched the meeting on the Town's website, it was difficult for me to assume positive intent on the part of some those who addressed the committee.  One of the most hurtful comments offered in reference to Tony was, "He disrespects our town."  I cannot think of anyone who has done more for the people of Carolina Beach than Tony Silvagni and I believe all who know him would agree.   But what about the people who don't know him and all that he has done?   This is a great example of how an unqualified statement put out into the public space can be damaging to a business owner's reputation and can create a bias toward them.  For this reason, I felt a need to respond and point out some of the many ways that Tony has supported our town.  
Organized and sponsored the Foam Board Fest surf contest in April 2015 which raised $13,000 for the purchase of life saving equipment for the ocean rescue programs in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
Founded the non profit Carolina Beach Longboard Club in 2016 to help amateur surfers further their skills, enter competitive surfing and also to allow surfers to give back to their community. The CBLC supports many local causes and just this week made a $500 donation to help purchase a service dog for the 3 year old child of one of our CB Police Officers.  The CBLCs first surf contest was held in April 2016 and raised $10,000 for the club which enables it to support community needs. In 2010, on a particularly rough surf day, Tony cancelled his lessons, which created a financial impact to his business, and stepped in to support our lifeguards in assisting over 27 distressed victims in the water.  The Town of Carolina Beach recognized him with a resolution honoring his volunteer service and his selfless acts of courage.
Donated surfboards to the family who lost their home and belongings in the fire on Pleasure Island in 2014.
Is an active advocate for youth sports in our community, sponsoring a Halo Hoops Girls Basketball Team and served in a leadership capacity for the Ashley High School Surf Club Volunteers at our schools (Ashley High, Murray Middle, Carolina Beach Elementary, Island Montessori) by speaking at Business and Career Day and regularly giving talks about being a professional athlete and business owner. He also attends fundraising events at local schools and this year was a judge for the pumpkin carving competition at Island Montessori School.
Supports local scouting programs: Tony has been involved with Girl Scout Troops 867 and 901 for several years and is a favorite celebrity judge for our annual Powder Puff Derby and most recently our Trunk or Treat costume contest.   He also supports Boy Scout Troop 864, who brings their scouts down to take surf lessons in May of every year.
Set up the Surf Cam at the Hamlet beach access for everyone to enjoy Tony's surf school gives him the opportunity to share his love of surfing with people from all over the country who visit Carolina Beach.  He works hard to offer a service that will keep people returning to year after year.  Tony works with physically and mentally disabled students and helps each person get something special out of their time in the water.  
Even though he is an Olympic gold medalist who has competed in over 26 countries with the best surfers in the world, Tony takes the time to give back to his town.  He's a great athlete and was a great student, he has chosen not to use drugs, he displays great sportsmanship and I think we can all agree that we could not ask for a better role model for the young people of Carolina Beach.
I am thankful that Tony has decided to remain in Carolina Beach and that he has committed himself to furthering the sport of surfing in our town and also to giving back to the town every chance he gets.  We live in a time when respect and care for people is at an all time low and we see that played out every day on the national stage.  That does not have to be the norm in our town.  It is my hope that we can learn from this experience and raise the level of our dialogue to be more respectful and professional in the future.  I am grateful to the Island Gazette for printing my letter and allowing me to set the record straight regarding Tony Silvagni, someone that I both admire and appreciate.
Nan Toppin,
Carolina Beach


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