Tony & Cheri's PlayaZone

Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • Subscribe

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Playa del Carmen Weather

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 842,028 hits
  • Pages

  • Networked Blogs

Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

Beware of Unscrupulous Charities

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 18, 2011

We received an email at the hotel yesterday from a woman named Karen Johnson asking us if we would donate a stay at our hotel to an organization called the Cancer Relief Association,

We were told they were “planning an online auction to raise funds to provide financial assistance to cancer patients around the world.” It went on to say that they provide cancer patients with grants that assist them in paying the expenses of dealing with their disease. We were asked to send information about our donation to either the email address listed or to their post office box in Florida.

Over the years we’ve contributed time at our hotel to different charitable organizations and functions both here in Mexico and in the United States. So when we received this solicitation, we were open to the idea. Besides, who doesn’t want to help people with cancer? Both of Tony’s parents died from cancer, we have a good friend battling the disease right now, and several of our close friends–as well as Cheri’s mom–are cancer survivors.

However as the email we received was so lacking in information we decided to investigate further. In this time of easy internet scams, we figured we should be a little cautious and confirm we were dealing with a legitimate charity. We also figured that no legitimate charity would have an issue with that.

We looked at Cancer Relief Association’s web site–a single web page–and found very little real information about this organization, other than a note directed to property owners about how a stay at their hotel would help provide money to cancer patients, which we found rather strange. It was very vague. The Paypal link for donations on the website was broken. When we googled them, we found virtually no references to this charity.

So we sent a reply email asking if the Cancer Relief Association was associated with any other cancer research organizations and asked Karen if she would provide us with a link to the website where the internet auction was being held.

The reply stated they are affiliated with the organization Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc. at Instead of a link to their upcoming online auction, we were told we could view the other items they have listed for auction at

Hmmm. When we looked at the link we found nothing but vacation properties listed for sale on ebay by the user name “bidtofightcancer.” When we were originally told they were soliciting donations for an “upcoming online auction,” we were expecting some sort of event, not simply someone taking bids on ebay.

Meanwhile, we emailed the Center for Cancer Research Funding to ask if they were indeed associated with the Cancer Relief Organization and were told by one of their three Directors, Dick Bornman, that yes, the Cancer Relief Association is a program managed by their organization.

So we looked at the Center for Cancer Research Funding website. Unfortunately we encountered similarly vague information as to where and whom the donations actually go and under what circumstances. Internet searches again provided little or no information about this charity.

Sensing a scam, we decided not to donate and sent the following email to Karen:


We have decided not to contribute to your organization. Frankly, we have some questions about its legitimacy. It appears not to be associated with any well-known cancer research entity, appears to deal only on marketing vacation properties on ebay, and the organizations’ websites appear somewhat questionable and provide no real information as to who you are or who receives your donations. We prefer to make our charitable contributions to more established organizations.

We assumed this would be the end of it, or possibly that we might receive another email giving us more information to prove the legitimacy of either organization. Instead, a few hours later we received the following scathing email from Dick Bornman of the Center for Cancer Research Funding. You have to read it carefully to appreciate it. The capitalization and emphasis are all his:

Hello Tony & Cheri Head, Owners,

I can appreciate your response, but quite frankly am disgusted with how you worded it. Your hotel would be one of the lower price class hotels that we solicited so to receive your response is quite interesting. Your hotel is no Ritz and Mexico is not exactly highly sought after right now. In other words your number 22 in Playa del Carmen, there are 21 more established resorts in your town alone. Thank god people do not have your attitude or your resort would not be in business. We are a fully registered fully tax exempt organization, in AMERICA, which is more sought after than Mexico to begin with. So in other words from outer appearances both organizations are not the best not the most highly funded and far from number 1. Next time you reject someone do it appropriately and do not do it rudely and outrageously to someone who travels internationally, because I will make sure to inform others of your generosity and your kind words starting with the patients we assist, ending with the resorts that are in the top ten, Karen does not check on the numbers, or believe me we would not have solicited to you in the first place, furthermore most trips we receive have personal connections to someone in our organization, meaning they own a week, or they have spent money there before, nobody internally desires to go to Playa del Carmen right now, and after your insulting response nobody will ever want to spend money at your hotel. Just my five cents, take it for what its worth, and STOP INSULTING CHARITIES, it comes off EXTREMELY ARROGANT AND DISGUSTING.

Yours Truly

Dick Bornman

We were shocked at the nasty personal tone of this email and the spew of negativity against us, our business, Playa del Carmen and Mexico in general! It amazed us that someone representing a so-called charity would act so unprofessionally. It puzzled us that someone would solicit resorts in Mexico and then make comments about how nobody goes to Mexico and how America is so much better.

Finally, we noted with interest that Mr. Bornman had an opportunity to fill in the gaps for us by saying how the donations to his company were processed, distributed, what percentage of money was received by cancer patients and their families, etc. But he didn’t.

And then it got even stranger.

An hour later, someone named Michael L. Galbraith posted a link to a very old negative TripAdvisor review of our hotel ON OUR HOTEL’S FACEBOOK PAGE. Turns out that Michael L. Galbraith is the President of the Center for Cancer Research Funding, Inc.! We of course promptly removed it, reported him to Facebook and then blocked him.

We were stunned by the idea that the President of a so-called charity supposedly responsible for the distribution of aid to cancer patients “around the world” would take the time to play vindictive games on our Facebook page simply because we refused to donate. In the end, the actions of these two individuals convinced us more than ever that we did not want to be associated with their charity, regardless of what name it used.

After receipt of the threatening email and attempt to damage our business, we did a little more research with a public office in the US and learned that the Center for Cancer Research Funding took in over $90,000 US in 2010. We certainly hope at least some of that money actually went to cancer patients and not to line the pockets of such awful people. The fact that the money is tax exempt makes us cringe even more.

We find it hard to believe that representatives of any legitimate charity would act in such a way. After receiving such nasty treatment, we fear they may be scam artists, and we know they are unprofessional. Either way, we certainly hope that anyone who is approached by either the Cancer Relief Organization or the Center for Cancer Research Funding take a long, hard look at their credentials before donating to or buying anything from them.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in What's New | Tagged: , , | 17 Comments »

Coco’s Cat Rescue Fundraiser at the Luna Blue Bar

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 5, 2009

Update January 14, 2011. As of today the Luna Blue Hotel no longer supports Coco’s Cat Rescue. It has come to light that they along with others have acted in what we consider to be an unethical manner, attempting to undermine and destroy another local charity. We are saddened by this, as we believe all of the charities in Playa have a place and do good work in our community. We are therefore no longer supporting Coco’s Cat Rescue with our contributions, and we suggest our friends and followers of this blog take similar action. We hope in the future that they may learn to work more fully with the entire community.

We are sorry we haven’t blogged for a while…we have been traveling in southern California visiting our son and doing some very serious research on tourism (see photo below). 🙂

Now we’re back in Playa del Carmen, and tomorrow night–Saturday June 6, 2009–we will be hosting a fundraiser at the Luna Blue Bar for Coco’s Cat Rescue. Coco’s Cat Rescue is a relatively new organization here in Playa del Carmen dedicated to rescuing some of the many lost, abandoned and feral cats that live in the area. The good people at Coco’s Cat Rescue find adult feral cats, trap them, have them spayed or neutered with the assistance of local veterinarians and then release them. When kittens are found or captured, they are cared for by Coco’s until they can be adopted by someone who wants them. There are many, many stray cats in this area, so the work that Coco’s does is truly needed to control the feline population.

We know first hand the good work by the Coco’s Cat Rescue volunteers. The garden at the Luna Blue Hotel is not only home to our own cats Frankie & Osso (Bear, in English), but is an attraction to many of the feral cats, especially pregnant females who are looking for a quiet place to have a litter. Sadly, many of the adult cats are not strong enough to deliver healthy babies, and litters often don’t survive. But recently we discovered a mama and her five babies shortly after their birth and were able to feed mama and protect and tame the kittens until they were old enough to be weaned. Then Laura from Coco’s came and collected the kittens and made sure that they received food and medical care. She is taking care of them until someone comes along to adopt them. With their assistance, we’ve also trapped and neutred/spayed four other adult cats, including the mama of this litter.

Coco’s Cat Rescue is completely nonprofit and supported entirely by donations. Tomorrow, Saturday June 6 will be their first ever fundraiser, a party at the Luna Blue with music, food, drinks, kittens (for adoption or just cuddling) and best of all, a HUGE raffle of some amazing prizes, all donated by local businesses and generous supporters of Coco’s Cat Rescue.

Here are some of the great prizes a $50 peso raffle ticket might win:

  • Two trips on the Fat Cat catamaran (donated by Maureen)
  • Two Rio Secreto excursions (donated by Marissa)
  • $50 US gift certificate to Spa Itza (donated by Vanessa)
  • Three-night stay in a Tropical Hideaway room (a $270 US value) at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden (donated by Tony & Cheri)
  • A $250 peso bar tab at the Luna Blue Bar (donated by Tony & Cheri)
  • Another $250 peso bar tab at the Luna Blue Bar (donated by Tony & Cheri)
  • A hand beaded necklace (donated by SPAY)
  • A second beaded necklace (donated by SPAY)
  • $50.00USD Barnes & Noble Gift Card to be used in any store or online (donated by Maureen)
  • $500 Peso Bar Tab at the Beer Bucket (donated by the Beer Bucket)
  • A Tote le Monde Duffel Bag (donated by Maureen)
  • Vintage (1948) Jomar Seed Pearl Lariat Style Necklace–60 inches…can be worn as a belt (donated by Maureen)
  • One night in a superior junior suite at La Tortuga from june 6th to dec.23rd, depending on availability (donated by Laura and Ana)
  • A $500 peso restaurant tab at El Bistro (donated by Laura and Ana)
  • Another $500 peso restaurant tab at El Bistro (donated by Laura and Ana)
  • Two Peanut Pet Shelter beer koozies (donated by Maureen)
  • Two free yoga classes at Yoga by the Way (donated by Ellen de Jonge)
  • Horseback riding for two people at Punto Venado (donated by Lisa)
  • Dinner for two at Babe’s Noodles & Bar (donated by Babes)
  • Gift certificate for breakfast or lunch for two people at Turtle Bay CafĂ© in Akumal (donated by Jen Smith)
  • One month of English classes at Harmon Hall in Playa del Carmen. The winner will have to pay for books, but the course has a value of 1600 pesos!!! (donated by Mark of Harmon Hall)
  • Two Catamaya catamaran sailing/snorkel trips (value $184 US!) (donated by Fabio of Catamaya)
  • One bottle of Gran Centenario Anejo Tequila, 695ml (donated by Libby of InTheRoo)
  • Lunch for two and day pass at Shangri La Caribe Hotel (donated by Shangri La Caribe)
  • $500 pesos gift certificate at Carboncitos restaurant (donated by Russell at Carboncito’s)
  • Two ATV rides with Yucatan Explorer(donated by Yucatan Explorer)
  • If you’re going to be in town, stop by tomorrow night, or stop by the Luna Blue Hotel or Bar on Calle 26 between 5th and 10th Avenues beforehand to buy tickets. If you’re not able to make it down to Playa, you can buy tickets online. Click here for information. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE PRESENT TO WIN!!! Unclaimed ticket numbers will be posted online here, and the organizers will arrange for pickup or delivery of any prizes won.

    Tomorrow night should be quite an event. Come hungry, as we will be selling Papa T’s famous Cheeseburgers in Playadise. The burgers and all the fixings have been donated by Rob & Michele of Buy Playa and Life’s a Beach blog, so 100% of the $50 peso sales price will go directly to Coco’s Cat Rescue.

    And in honor of the evening, the Luna Blue Bar will be offering a new coconut rum drink we call Coco’s Catini. Every Coco’s Catini will come with a souvenir kitty cat drink ornament, compliments of Coco’s supporter Vanessa. Thirty pesos from each drink sold will be donated to Coco’s.

    And starting around 9 pm, Playa’s own Bad Brad Ryan will be playing and singing for everyone’s enjoyment.

    In addition to the fundraiser, tomorrow evening is also a Tripadvisor member Meet-Up! If you are a regular member, poster or just reader of Tripadvisor’s Playa Del Carmen Forum, please stop by and say hello.

    On a personal note, it’s good to be home in Playa. And for those of you who are still asking (amazingly)…YES, Playa is still open. YES, the weather is beautiful. YES, it’s a great time of year to visit. And NO there is no danger (banditos, swine flu, drug cartels, pirates, etc.) It’s paradise down here. Hope to see you tomorrow night.

    And, as promised, here’s a picture of us in deep conversation with our business consultant back in the States.
    Cheri, Mickey Mouse & Tony at Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth

    Visit our new Facebook page and become a fan of Luna Blue Hotel & Bar!

    Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

    Getting Bombed for the Bomberos

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 21, 2009

    Beer & Shots set up at the starting lineOne nice thing about the expat community in Playa del Carmen is its willingness to help local charities make Playa a better place. While traditional volunteering is generally not allowed under the provisions of most expats’ visas, that doesn’t preclude them from stepping in and supporting fundraising efforts for various causes. Angel Notion and the Peanut Pet Shelter are two of the more popular and well-supported causes. But probably the most well-known and respected “charity” is the Bomberos, or the local Playa del Carmen firefighters.

    The Bomberos are led by a US expat, Comandante Brian Borjesson. After moving to Playa many years ago, Brian dedicated himself to creating one of Mexico’s finest firefighting teams. Through tireless dedication, he begged and borrowed equipment and funding and even created an annual weeklong firefighting “Academy.” Each spring, expert firefighters from the US come to Playa on a volunteer basis to train the firefighters here. In turn, the firefighters here help train other firefighters throughout Mexico. Everybody benefits.

    As there is never enough money to fund all of the important work the Bomberos do, they turn to regular fundraising. One of those fundraising events is the yearly Three Legged Bar Crawl Race, which the expats see not only as an opportunity to raise money for the firefighters, but to get falling down drunk with their friends. How much fun is that! The race is not all expats–some locals as well as the occasional tourist always show up to enter the race–but the teams are primarily made up of those who have come from other places and now call Playa their home.

    Teams of two collect donations from individual and local businesses in the weeks leading up to the race. There’s usually a fair amount of good-natured competitiveness in this effort, as the team who collects the most money earns a certain amount of bragging rights. Last year’s race was so competitive that the total earned (largely by two very competitive teams) was enough to buy TWO new Jaws of Life for the Bomberos.

    Dutch expats Soraya and Jessica doing their first shot of the raceThis year’s Three Legged Bar Crawl Race was held last night, and it was very well attended, as always. Participants and spectators assembled at the sponsoring bar, Bar Ranita, on Calle 10. Teams of two, some in costume, with their inner legs tied together, were sent out at staggered intervals with timekeepers noting the time (it was, after all, a race!). Starting and ending at Bar Ranita, each team was required to stop at six other bars (Babe’s Noodles & Bar, Manne’s Biergarten, Dirty Martini, Bad Boys on the Beach, Tequila Barrel and Zenzi) and have a shot of tequila or a bottle of beer at each bar before moving on to the next. Without knowing the exact figures, we believe that the fastest runners/drinkers finished the race this year in under 15 minutes! We doubt we could even run that fast to each of those bars, let alone have a drink at each one! A great time was had by all, and once again a lot of money was raised for the firefighters. With the tough economic times this year, it was more difficult to squeeze pesos of out people, but these dedicated teams still managed to do it.

    The Luna Blue Hotel & Bar was proud to sponsor three teams this year: Sara & Heather (playamayanews and caribesunrise); John & Libby (intheroo) and Chris & Keith ( & the previous owner of Keith’s Bar). Word has it that Sara and Heather (dressed as the cheerleaders from the Nirvana music video “Smells Like Team Spirit”) finished second and collected the most money (yah girls!). John & Libby also raised a good amount of money from regular readers of their website. Chris & Keith….well lets just say it was a pretty big social event for those guys! We saw these two drinking beers before the race even began. Then, after officially starting with a drink at La Ranita, instead of running off like other contestants, they stayed awhile joking and laughing with friends, and then casually strolled off to the next bar. We never saw them finish; we’re not sure anybody did. 🙂

    We hung out at the starting spot, watching the teams excitingly gulping their first drink before hobbling out to the next bar. After all the teams left, we sauntered down the street to Babe’s to hang with our friend Michele (Life’s a Beach blog) who was the official race monitor at Babe’s, the next-to-the-last spot before the finish line. It was hilarious to see the difference in the people from their first shot to their seventh. One woman ran up, tied at the knee to her mom, and while grabbing a shot said, “Mom, this is Michele.” Mom, slamming her seventh shot of the evening, tried to focus her glassy eyes on Michele and said, “Hi.” It was a funny moment.

    Everybody had a good time, and lots of money was raised for the Bomberos. We salute all the organizers, participants and contributors and those who just showed up to cheer on the runners.

    Here are some shots from the race last night.

    The crowd before the race

    Our friend Mayte, always a huge Bomberos supporter

    Some Bomberos watching the race

    The barf buckets were much used and appreciated

    Starting the race with tequila shots

    Chris & Keith with the first beer of the race (but not the evening)

    On the home stretch

    These two won the race

    Part of the “Dutch Army,” Soraya & Jessica, heading towards the finish line

    One of our sponsored teams, Libby & John of

    The winners celebrating

    One of our other sponsored teams, Sara & Heather of playamayanews and caribesunrise at Babe’s just before their 7th shot of the night

    Local boys Rick, Andy and Max (Peanut Pet Shelter). The boys are drinking tequila and Max, who only has 3 legs, is drinking water as they all approach the finish line

    Comandante Brian handing out prizes and congratulating the winners

    Posted in Events & Happenings, Friends | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

    Paintings For Pets: Art Show & Benefit at the Luna Blue Bar This Week

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 24, 2008

    Award winning artist Barry LauniusThe Luna Blue Hotel & Bar is proud to announce that tomorrow night and the next night, Monday and Tuesday November 24 & 25, we will be sponsoring “Paintings for Pets,” an Art Show & Benefit at the Luna Blue Bar, from 6-11 pm. Our friend and extraordinary artist Barry Launius, has brought a collection of his tropical watercolors and acrylics to display and sell, with the sole purpose of raising money for the Peanut Pet Shelter here in Playa del Carmen! This is an extraordinary generous gesture on Barry’s part. He and his wife Phyllis are also pet lovers, and according to Barry, this show is a memorial of sorts to their dog Rex, who they recently lost, as well as our own Huggybear, who we also lost a short time ago.

    Barry is an award winning artist of major talent whose works focus largely on the tropical paradise of the Riviera Maya. We love his art, and it is displayed prominently in the Luna Blue Hotel and Bar and throughout our home. This week’s art show is a rare opportunity to see many of Barry’s original pieces and pick up some early Christmas presents–while benefitting one of our favorite local charities.

    A local art framing shop, Paré, has offered a 15% discount on matting/framing any pieces purchased at the art show. We use Paré exclusively to frame all of the art we have purchased for the house and hotel, and they have always done an excellent job. They are located in central Playa del Carmen on Calle 12 between Avenida 15 and 20.

    During the Paintings for Pets events, we will be featuring 2×1 margaritas, and Tony will be cooking up his famous Cheeseburgers in Playadise (with proceeds also going to the pet shelter). Local musician Chris Bollister has hinted that he may drop by one or both nights for an acoustical guitar set. We’re hoping for a large turnout.

    The cost of the paintings will range from $30 US for watercolors to $350 for the very largest acrylics. Once you see Barry’s work, you’ll fall in love with it!

    If you’re in Playa, please drop by the tomorrow or Tuesday night 6-11 pm at the Luna Blue Bar. Calle 26 Norte between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue. Hope to see you then!

    Here are a few of the paintings that will be up for grabs at the Paintings for Pets event:

    To view some others that will be for sale at the event, click here.

    Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends, The Hotel & Bar, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

    Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 9, 2008

    This event has been cancelled. Thank you to all the people who donated money. You credit cards will not be charged. And thank you very much to Catamaya Cruises for their very generous offer. We still highly recommend Catamaya as one of the finest tours in the area. Thanks also to Sarah Bursey of Graphicos Design for designing the t-shirt.


    On August 22, Mexico will celebrate Dia de los Bomberos, or Firemen’s Day. Here in Playa there is extra reason to celebrate as our local Bomberos will soon be opening three new fire stations here in town. There will be a large gathering at the main firehouse with an all day open house and festivities, including the presention of the firefighter team and individual awards given by the State of Quintana Roo, and won (of course) by our own Bomberos de la Riviera Maya. If you have a chance, stop by the fire station that day to meet and say thanks to some of the people who keep all of us is Playa Del Carmen–locals and visitors alike–safe.

    One of the things that make our Bomberos very special is that they exist on contributions from a grateful public. Locals and visitors both benefit from the hard and often dangerous work of the Bomberos and have generously contributed donations allowing the Bomberos to buy the expensive equipment needed to protect the community. Those needs are ongoing, and on behalf of the Bomberos, we are asking for your help in protecting the little slice of paradise we all love, Playa Del Carmen.

    So…..Catamaya Cruises and the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar are proud to announce:

    The Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008

    On Sunday August 24th Catamaya Cruises will offer a special Sunset Cruise with 100% of all ticket sales going to the Bomberos. All costs of the trip are being paid for by the generous folks at Catamaya!! Luna Blue will be coordinating the event & donating commemorative t-shirts.
    The Catamaya Cataman

    The cruise starts at 3:30 pm and continues until 7:30 pm. We will sail the beautiful Caribbean Sea, snorkel, swim and grill hamburgers on the open deck (with appropriate side dishes and munchies) as we watch the sunset. There will also be an open bar. And you will get a chance to talk with some of the firefighters themselves who will also be along to share their stories, including Bomberos President Brian Borjesson.

    Cost is $80.00 USD per person including transportation to and from Playa Del Carmen (the Catamaya leaves from Puerto Aventuras). Tickets must be purchased in advance. Simply go to the Luna Blue website reservation page and authorize your credit card payment. In the “notes” space just type “Bomberos Cruise.”  You will receive confirmation of your ticket purchase via e-mail within a few days.  Or, if you live in Playa or are visiting, stop by the Luna Blue Hotel any day between 7:30 am and 10:00 pm and pay in person.

    Last year, donations helped purchase two sets of the “Jaws of Life” which are used to extract victims from badly mangled vehicle wrecks. In the past 12 months, the Bomberos saved the lives of more than 20 people using the Jaws of Life by enabling them to free the victims from the wreckage of their cars. Our friends Mayte and Alex are among those who were saved with this vital equipment. Donations from the Bomberos Catamaya Sunset Cruise 2008 will help purchase a badly needed additional set of the Jaws of Life so even more lives can be saved.

    Bomberos of the Riviera Maya fire truckThis is a not-to-be-missed event…a great time sailing on the sea and a chance to help some real heroes do their job. And if you can’t be here, you can still be a “Bomberos Buddy” by making a donation. Every person who donates $25.00 US or more (or buys a ticket for the cruise) will receive a one of a kind “Bomberos Sunset Cruise 2008/Bomberos Buddy” t-shirt . These donations will also be used to purchase tickets for deserving people who might not otherwise get a chance to join us…other local heroes who do tremendous work in helping make Playa del Carmen the special place that it is. And the t-shirts (which we’re hoping to have designed by the lovely SarahB) will promise to be collector’s items!

    Don’t wait. Space is limited to 80 passengers… Send your ticket order or contribution today so you too can proudly say, “I’m a Bomberos Buddy!”

    For more info on our Bomberos here is an article which appears in the August 2008 Playa Del Carmen Tourist Information Magazine written by Editor Scott Novak and re-printed here with permission:

    Dia de bomberos, as it is known here, is recognized throughout the world with the exception of the U.S. and Canada. It is particularly big in Latin America, where the populace is very aware that the fire protection they count on is largely a volunteer effort.Playa del Carmen, in the heart of the Riviera Maya, is fortunate to have a well equipped, professional fire department. Its history is short because Playa was just a small village not that long ago. A volunteer “bucket brigade” was formed in 1995 after a visiting tourist lost his R.V. to an electrical fire. By 1998 there was a full-time force of eight men, without a lot of equipment, but with a firehouse.

    The year 2000 saw the arrival of Playa’s first fire truck, a 1964 Seagraves donated by sister city Glendale, Colorado. That’s the white fire truck we now see on the roof of the fire station as a remembrance. That truck, and the men who operated it, saved many lives. That’s why it sits there.

    Now, in 2008 Playa’s Fire Dept is recognized as the best, most well organized, and effective team in the state. Fire fighters from Cancun, Cozumel, Chetumal, and indeed all over the country come to Playa every year for training at the annual Academy in April. The force, comprising about 50, now has around 20 vehicles including 13 trucks, pumpers, tankers, 3 ambulances, and a 75 foot ladder truck. They’ve also just acquired an all-weather rescue boat.

    The department currently responds to about 700 calls per year, and not just for fires. The entire force is trained in urban rescue techniques, first aid, and CPR. Their 3 victim ambulances are equipped with the “Jaws of Life” so they can extricate accident victims much faster than the private ambulances. Dangerous wild animals, poisonous snakes, hornets nests; the call goes to the fire dept. They maintain extensive coordination with Civil Protection and other emergency service workers, particularly during hurricane season.

    The dedicated firemen who make up the force do it to help their community, not for money, of which they don’t receive much. Rather their own fundraising efforts bring in resrouces for much needed equipment. You can help out by buying a tee shirt at

    Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    Want Something Different? Dog Washing Day!

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 24, 2008

    A pet shelter resident -- wanna take him home?
    Guests at our hotel, the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, are always asking for advice on something different…a new restaurant, a unique tour or some activity only the locals know about. Lately we have been telling people about something we think is fun, special and very different: Dog Washing Day at the Peanut Pet Shelter.

    First a little background. A couple of years ago, Andy and Jen left their home in the United Kingdom to move to the paradise of Playa Del Carmen. Once they got here, they began to notice the large number of abandoned and stray dogs that wander the streets. Some are born here and others are left behind when their owners move on or go back home. Unfortunately, the local government doesn’t have the resources or facilities to do much about it. Dogs which are captured or turned into the animal control are quickly put down.

    A Playa visitor helping outBeing the animal lovers they are, Andy and Jen decided to do something about the situation…something very different for this part of the world. They opened an animal shelter to house abandoned dogs. Well, actually, they opened their home! They began to collect street dogs, care for them, feed them, get them medical attention and try to adopt them out to local families who wanted a pet. They did all of this on their own time, often with their own money supported by the contributions of locals and visitors.

    They currently are housing and caring for about 50 dogs, many of them very young or small puppies. That’s a lot of work. One of the biggest chores is giving the dogs their weekly bath. No, the very active puppies don’t stay clean for long, but they do get washed down, and more importantly, they get used to the feel of human touch. They become accustomed to playing with and seeing people which turns them from street dogs into potential pets.

    Another visitor meeting the localsFor some time now, local expats have gathered at Andy and Jen’s home/shelter on Saturday afternoons (1:00pm to 3:30 pm) to help with the washing. Hoses, buckets and towels litter the yard as playful pups are grabbed and scrubbed. Lately, the local crowd has been joined by more and more visitors. Guests from the Luna Blue Hotel are now starting to ask about washing day and how they can help. Last week we had a sweet young couple spend the final day of their honeymoon joining in the fun. They are returning later this year and plan on taking a puppy home! And recently, a mother and daughter visiting us from the states (ages 82 and 58 respectively) spent two Saturdays of their trip at the Pet Shelter and said it was the highlight of their vacation.

    The best day of Tyler's vacationSo, if you are going to be visiting us here in Playa in the near future, and you are a dog lover, think about spending some time at the Peanut Pet Shelter. You will see some adorable dogs and puppies. And yes they are all up for adoption, and yes they can be taken back to the US and Canada without quarantine. Mexican street dogs (or MSD’s, as we jokingly refer to them) are loyal, hardy and loving—we know because we own one (read Gypsy’s story here). And while you might think street dogs would be fearful or anti-social, it’s just the opposite. These dogs are starved for love and are grateful and loving in response to any attention they get. You will also get to hang out with folks who live here and will be glad to tell you about life in Mexico, as well as some of their favorite places to eat, go, drink etc. If you do stop by to help, make sure to wear old clothing and nothing white. You’ll end up dirty and smelling like a lot of puppies. 🙂 This is a chance to see part of Playa Del Carmen you won’t find in the guidebooks.

    And while you are visiting you will notice the construction on the lot next door. With the help of generous donations from around the world, Andy and Jen are now building an actual kennel/shelter for the dogs.

    If you want to wash a puppy or two when you come down on holiday just contact Andy & Jen via their website or contact us at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden. It will be a vacation memory like no other.

    Here are some more pictures from a recent Wash Day at the Peanut Pet Shelter in Playa del Carmen:

    Colleen doing drying duty
    Cheri washing a very dirty puppy
    Tyler and friend taking a break
    Double duty in the tub

    Gypsy, our own Mexican Street Dog. She was ALMOST a resident of the pet shelter!
    Gypsy, our very own MSD

    Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    Naked in Playa….For a Good Cause

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 20, 2007

    The 2008 Peanut Pet Shelter CalendarIt’s not often that a mature man close to 60 years old is asked to pose nude for photographs…and to bring along his dog! Not having had such a request since the 1970’s (and that’s a whole other story!) Tony wasn’t sure he should be doffing his clothes for the whole world to see his middle age spread. But when he heard the reason why, he couldn’t refuse.

    The story starts with our friends Andy and Jen. Ex-pats from the UK, A&J moved to Playa last year and were amazed and saddened by the large numbers of dogs and cats that were abandoned to a life on the streets. Rather than just being sad, they decided to actually do something about it. And so was born the Peanut Pet Shelter of Playa Del Carmen.

    Andy & Thor in the 2008 Peanut Pet Shelter CalendarPet shelters are a rare thing south of the border. Animals have a different status in third world countries where resources are limited. People usually don’t treat pets like members of the family and certainly don’t spend time, money or emotion on street animals. So it was an uphill battle for the Peanut Pet Shelter to start up. But start up it did and it has become an important part of the community here.

    At their own expense Andy and Jen rescue dogs and cats, puppies and kittens from the street. Some are injured, some are ill and all are undernourished and in need of care. The pet shelter feeds them, houses them, gets them veterinarian treatment and then tries to find families to adopt them. The Peanut Pet Shelter exists on the considerable time, energy and money contributed by Andy and Jen. Their contributions are aided by charitable donations of locals and visitors. There have been a number of charity raffles and parties in Playa to help the shelter out…but the large number of animals in need requires more and more financial help.

    Not long ago someone came up with the idea of a calendar: a calendar of local men posing with their pet dogs…au naturel!!! It seemed right somehow. Down in the tropics we don’t usually wear a lot of clothes (although most of us wear some!). And if the local guys posing were not exactly Brad Pitt look-a-likes…well, that just emphasized the fun nature of it all.

    Señor February & Huggybear in the 2008 Peanut Pet Shelter CalendarSo for the last few weeks over a dozen of the braver and less inhibited men of Playa Del Carmen could be seen posing all over town with their pets or dogs rescued by the shelter. The guys are in “strategic” positions or locales which allow their personalities to shine through while obscuring their…well…you know. Some of the “models” are actually pretty good looking young guys. You girls out there will appreciate that. But the truth is, it was all for laughs, a good time and most importantly, to help a good cause. The Peanut Pet Shelter is now selling the calendars for $20.00. You can purchase them at the front desk of our own Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, or at the front desks of the La Tortuga or La Rana Cansada hotels. Or, you can order directly by going to, clicking the Send Money tab and typing in The cost of shipping is included in the $20.00 price. Unfortunately they cannot mail from Mexico but will be relying on volunteers to carry calendars back to the US to mail.

    Disclaimer: No pets or people were harmed during the making of this calendar. Pride, ego and vanity were put aside for this endeavor….so no snickering, please. All proceeds benefit the Peanut Pet Shelter of Playa del Carmen. And we better not see these on ebay for big bucks! 🙂

    So, if you’d like a really unique souvenir of your time in Playa del Carmen or are looking for that special gift to send to your maiden aunt in Utah, pick up a copy of the Peanut Pet Shelter 2008 Dogs & Dudes of Playa calendar. And of course, if you’d like Mister February to autograph it for you, just bring it by the Luna Blue. 🙂

    Posted in Events & Happenings, Friends, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

    Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards…Mahahual

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 9, 2007

    As the year winds down and the holiday season is upon us, it seems fitting that we bring the Playa Pals Mahahual relief effort to a close. Our regular blog readers know that after Hurricane Dean devastated the small town of Mahahual, about 175 miles to the south of Playa del Carmen, a small group of Playa residents banded together to see what they could do to help.

    Children of MahahualThis informal group started out by just trying to get emergency food and water to the area. The word was sent out via email, online forums, blogs, radio advertisements, and even Radio Margaritaville, that help was needed. We set up a PayPal account and asked people to give what they could. And give they did.

    As the money came in, our little group began a regular routine. Every couple of days. armed with our most current shopping list, volunteers would spread out over Playa del Carmen buying these items. The group would then drive them down to Mahahual, and with the help of Mahahual locals, distribute them door to door.

    The needs of local people changed daily, almost hourly. Food and water were always at the top of the list. Medicine, clothing, tools, construction material, diapers, and just about every necessity for daily living showed up on the list at one time or another. The Playa Pals also supplied the local community kitchen, which was trying to feed as many families as possible. And, since the area had been turned into a virtual swamp, insect repellent and mosquito nets were highly in demand.

    After some time, we realized what had started out as a short term emergency supply project was the only lifeline many people in this devastated area had. For reasons which are too complicated and delicate to discuss here, there was no international or governmental aid available to the area. It became quickly apparent that if the people of Mahahual were to survive, it would be because volunteers were willing to help.

    Many people and organizations other than our little group, the Playa Pals, assisted Mahahual. They did what they could, and what they did was important. As the days turned into weeks and longer, the need for more money to buy more goods to help the people of Mahahual increased. In response, money continued to come from people all over the world.

    Eventually, the people of Mahahual regained some self-sufficiency, and emergency food, clothing and medicine were no longer needed as often. Families began to move away from the area, lessening the needs, and finally some forms of government assistance appeared. By the time this happened, the Playa Pals had raised over $35,000 US. By the time the need for emergency supplies had ended, we had spent all but about $10,000.

    A Mahahual mom & her kidsWe asked locals in Mahahual the best way to spend the remaining money. Over the last several weeks, a lot of ideas have been considered. However, now there is a consensus that the money should be utilized to help build a much needed hospital in Mahahual and for medical care for Mahahual residents. We think that’s an excellent idea. Kevin Graham, who has been the point man in Mahahual for volunteers and relief work, will be supervising the expenditure of the rest of the money. Kevin guarantees that it will be spent only for the medical needs of the people of Mahahual. We trust Kevin implicitly. So, in the next few weeks, the remaining money will be transferred to a foundation which will serve these specific goals. At that time, the Playa Pals PayPal account will be closed out and this chapter of the Mahahual relief project will come to an end.

    We didn’t want to let this moment go without offering a few observations about what we’ve experienced and learned during this amazing time. Helping the people of Mahahual offered us rewards we could not have imagined. We received nothing but smiles and thanks for our work down there. No one pushed, no one shoved, no one stole, and no one took more than they needed. It was humanity at its finest. At the same time, we became painfully aware of how people’s lives can be affected by politics and geography.

    But most of all we were stunned with the generosity of people. Let’s start with the Playa Pals volunteers. Nothing would have happened without Kevin Graham. A local real estate agent with Costa Maya Living in Mahahual, he lost his home, his business and everything he owned in the hurricane. His first response was, “What do other people need?” He worked without rest, literally for weeks on end, to help the people around him. Ethical, committed and of a great heart, Kevin is one of a kind.

    Then there is Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela. Claudia was the point person in Playa who first sent out the call that help was needed in Mahahual. A local Red Cross volunteer, Claudia is the nearest thing Playa has to a Mother Theresa. No one who needs help is ever turned away by Claudia.

    Mahahual cutieThe group that Claudia brought together included some of the most wonderful people we’ve had the pleasure to meet. Unfortunately we don’t know everybody’s names. Some volunteers came for a day, some for two or three, some just worked anonymously and we never had the chance to meet them or thank them. But we did get to be very close to some of the regulars. First, there is Heather Anderson. We knew Heather before this project, but not well. We found out that not only was she a butt-kicker organizer, relentless in her energy and drive, and one of the funniest human beings you’d ever want to spend four hours in a car with, but she also has a heart of gold which quickly turned to mush every time some four year old thanked her for water or food.

    And of course there was the group we with great love call the Dutch Army. Ex pats from the Netherlands included, among others, the adorable couple of Jessica Schaap and Alex Huis. It didn’t matter what time of day or night you called; they would be ready and willing to work. And regardless of the hour or the situation, their upbeat, delightful happiness infected all of us. And of course there was Willem. The best way to describe Willem is to compare him to a ride we love in Disneyland: Big Thunder Railroad, which simulates a runaway train barreling down a mountainside without brakes, heading for the next steep curve. Willem was a force unto himself, and he used all that energy to help. These folks also raised and contributed a lot of money on their own.

    And there are more. The folks at the La Tortuga hotel, Andrea from the Italian consulate, Il Barretto restaurant…Soriah, Michael Holmes, the boys from Israel…dozens and dozens of others. If we forgot anyone, forgive us; it’s late here. However, the real heroes are the people who donated money. From donations of five dollars to thousands of dollars, literally hundreds of people answered this call. Without each of you who gave a little something, volunteers would not have been able to feed and clothe and offer care to hundreds of devastated families for several months. The money you gave saved people’s lives. And now it will build them a hospital.

    So this is the end of our Mahahual reporting. We wanted to give credit where credit was due, and as we say, most of that credit goes to those of you who answered the call for help. This holiday season enjoy the warmth and satisfaction that comes from knowing that you made a difference in people’s lives. Thank you all. Happy Holidays.

    Posted in Hurricane Dean | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »