DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Destin native and long-time businessman Fred Tripp Tolbert is donating $1 million over the next four years to build Destin High School’s athletics program. With the first installment of $250,000, Tolberts’ money will be used to construct a state-of-the-art weight room and athletic facility.
Tolbert spoke with WKRG News 5 on campus Tuesday. Tolbert said growing up in Destin, the high school is a much-needed change.
“I have kids that participate in sports,” said Tolbert. “So I’m sending them to Niceville now that are currently doing really good in sports on the track team. My daughter Sky is ranked number one in the state for 100 meters hurdles and is top-ranked in the nation. I have an 8-year-old son and I’d love to see my son on my grandkids one day wear the Shark uniform or represent Destin, which is my hometown.”
Football Coach E.G. Green and athletic director Phil Dorn spoke about Tolbert’s generosity to the students during an all-campus assembly Tuesday afternoon.
“All of it comes to you. Y’all are the standard, you know y’all are the first, the pioneers of this thing and that’s what life is about, right? Life is about opportunity and chances,” said Green. “Now we have an advantage and that’s what life is about, man. Getting around good people that will support you, that will push you, that will make you better.”
“When you hear his story, you guys are going to be very impressed because he is what I call self-made work ethic success. He didn’t ask anybody else to do it. He wasn’t entitled or given anything to do it, he just rolled up his sleeves and he said I’m going to do it,” said Dorn. “He is setting the tone and setting the standard and he wants to raise money to help develop athletic facilities for our school and to help all you students. Now that is special and that is something that I want you guys not to take lightly and you’d be very grateful and thankful that you have people that believe in us enough to help us with those things.”
Tolbert said he hopes to raise $5 Million to go towards improving the Destin Middle School football field, currently used by DHS, or work with the Okaloosa County School District to build a new stadium for the Sharks and Marlins.
“My next mission is to try to help the county and try to help the middle school and try to help the high school to improve the field at the Destin Middle School,” said Tolbert. “It’s in horrible condition, I’m scared that one of the athletes are going to get hurt playing on that particular field.”
At the end of the day, Tolbert said the message he wants to send with the donation is about the kids.
“It’s all about the kids and it’s all about, you know, keeping the kids that are from Destin from having to go to other schools in our district so they could actually enjoy the school of their choice without having to go away from their hometown,” said Tolbert.
Tolbert hopes his donation will inspire others to back the growing charter school.
“Really my goal behind giving the $1,000,000 is to start a campaign to get other people to come with me and help raise more money,” said Tolbert. “So my goal is to start a committee of people that helps the board or the trustees of the Destin High School who try to raise funds to for all the sports and academics because academics are just as important as athletics.”