Sanibel Mayor, Chamber Award First Facemask Challenge Winners

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Chamber president and CEO John Lai, left, and Mayor Mick Denham present Jacki Saunders, accompanied by her husband Dave and their Yorkie CiCi, with her award check.

A mask in the shape of a sea turtle and another studded with Sanibel seashells won the first round of the Mayor’s Mask Challenge for December entries. In partnership with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham is awarding cash prizes every month through February for the most fashionable, flamboyant, or ostentatious masks entered into the challenge.

Each month, one prize-winner from Sanibel and one from Captiva will receive a $200 award. December’s Captiva winner, Jacki Saunders, a seasonal resident, emailed the chamber a selfie of her wearing her turtle mask in The Island Store. Photo entries must be taken indoors at an island place of business. Lisa Smith from St. Louis Park, Minn., shot her shell-themed mask selfie in 400 Rabbits restaurant on Sanibel Island and submitted it via Instagram.

“I went for a morning walk on Bowman’s Beach and decided I was going to try and think of a creative mask to enter into the contest,” said Smith, who worked remotely on the island while visiting family for two months. “Once I got back, it took me about an hour and a half to hand-sew the shells on. That night I stopped by 400 Rabbits and went to the American Legion, and it was an immediate hit!”

“I really was not expecting to win anything, but just wanted to participate in a novel way to address the Sanibel-Captiva mask mandate,” said Saunders. “I wanted to make something that resonated with people of Sanibel and Captiva. So, I thought blue for water and then a turtle.”

“We had 12 entries in our first month, and we’ve already surpassed that number for January’s contest,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer. “Exactly as we were hoping, people are having fun with the challenge, which was meant to lighten the dire pandemic mood.”

The mayor will award more cash prizes, matched by the chamber, after the end of January and February.

Entries can be made by the end of each month to the chamber’s Instagram or Facebook page using #mayorsmaskchallenge or via email to Once Mayor Denham and the chamber’s executive board choose the month’s two winners, they will award the cash prizes at the beginning of the following month.

“We all know wearing a mask helps keep the pandemic numbers down, so we’re trying to ease the tension facing a very serious problem,” said Denham. “It still has the same objective to keep the islands safe.”

Entrants can submit as many photos as they wish, but cannot submit the same mask for more than one month. Business owners and city or chamber employees are ineligible to enter.

“The Mayor’s Mask Challenge celebrates those doing their part to comply with the chamber’s SanCap Safe initiative,” said Lai. “We know that wearing a facemask is so important and will ultimately be a symbol of this time, so we might as well have some fun and work together to slow the spread and fight COVID-19.”

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