CT Allen stepped up to accept the honor of being the winner of the Legends female division in a recent wake surfing competition. An impressive win, right?
“I’m a legend of one,” Allen, 64, said, tongue-in-cheek. “My two tricks are I wave and I stay up.”
Exactly two people — Allen and 67-year-old Jeff Tudor, both of Windermere — compete in this division of the Thigh High Surf + Wake Series by Danny Harf and Nautiques of Orlando. They already know they are going to make the male and female winner’s podium each time, but they’re really only out there to have some fun while supporting their children.
Allen’s son, Robby, assists at Harf’s events. He was on the Rollins College waterski team, developed an interest in wakeboarding and wake surfing, and now owns Orlando Wake Academy. Some of his students compete, so he’s out there to support them too.
“When Robby got into wake surfing, he said, ‘Mom, you can do this,’” Allen said. “I love him for the fact that he keeps me young and he makes sure I push the boundaries a little bit. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when you fall … and it’s fun.”
She said water sports are multigenerational and inclusive to all family members. Allen and her husband, Rick, were attending the events to support their son — while other parents and grandparents were doing the same — so organizers created older competition divisions.
“I said, ‘I’m too old to surf with the 30- and 40-years-olds,’ and they embraced it,” Allen said.
She admits she doesn’t take the competitions too seriously because for her, it’s simply a way to connect with her son.
“As Robby says, ‘Mom doesn’t like to overtrain,’” Allen said. “When I can fit it in, yes. But the last competition, Robby took me out on the water the day before.”
LIFE ON THE WATER
CT, who was called Catherine or Cathy as a child, was one of five Tompkins children and grew up on Pine Castle’s Lake Jessamine. She recalls they all made sure they did their weekly chores so they could get their full five-gallon gas cans and take the family boat out on the water.
“We were all into it, but my brothers and I were into it more,” she said. “I was a tomboy growing up. We did stupid things. We built ramps and floated them. We did pyramids. … We did a couple ski shows, (including) a Fourth of July show at Starke Lake. I was in my teens.
“We just loved the water, and we were on the water all the time,” Allen said. “And that transferred to my son.”
Rick skis as well and serves as the boat driver when CT and Robby are on the water. The Allens live on Windermere’s Wauseon Bay, with their Nautique boat at the dock, always ready for time on the lake.
WINING AND DINING
Allen has a long history with the Windermere Wine & Dine, which was created around 2005 by a group of parents at Windermere Elementary School. It started as the Mustang Fund when budget cuts were affecting the school’s ability to improve its technology, she said, and included Allen, Karen Anderson, Joan Foglia, Hannah Ammar, Theresa Schretzmann-Myers, Jim O’Brien and Bill Martini.
The committee convinced parents to pay $250 per student to get the fund started — the program was successful and allowed for the purchase of a personal computer for each student. This was several years before Orange County Public Schools initiated its device program, which used Windermere Elementary as the beta school, Allen said.
The Mustang Fund committee created the Windermere Wine & Dine to further raise funds for the school, and when that was a success, members decided it should be an event for the entire Windermere community and held annually. Tim’s Wine Market had just opened in Windermere, and the owner agreed to partner with the group. The shop has been a partner every year since.
Allen works on the committee alongside Kelley Duell, Debi Lake, Windermere Council Member Molly Rose, former Council Member Bill Martini, Pam Martini and Sean Murphy. These dedicated organizers are working on plans for the 10th annual event, which Allen said has grown tremendously with the support of Town Manager Robert Smith.
The fundraiser has brought in more than one million dollars in less than a decade and has benefited nonprofit groups such as Edgewood Children’s Ranch, Second Harvest Food Bank, One Purse, Special Hearts Farm, Zion Farms, Windermere Police Foundation, Nathaniel’s Hope, Lighthouse of Central Florida, Shepherd’s Hope, West Orange Dream Center and One Heart for Women & Children.
It also has funded enhancements in the town of Windermere, including numerous pedestrian crosswalks.
Allen keeps busy.
“I have my hands involved in a lot of little things,” she said.
She’s also helping work on the Music Among the Lakes event, originally created during the pandemic when the Wine & Dine couldn’t take place. After many hours of planning, the event ultimately was postponed until last year, when it was held on the grounds of Town Hall with the Orlando Philharmonic and Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra.
The night of music was free and a gift to the town, Allen said. But because committee members are committed to fundraising, they partnered with Second Harvest for a virtual food drive and raised $10,000.
PRESERVING THE ALLEN NAME
When Allen married into the Allen family in 1992, she joined a multigenerational group of serious community supporters. When her father-in-law, Bob, died in 1987, they created the Allen Family Foundation, which has grown exponentially since that first year, she said.
The foundation is made up of Allen family members: Bob’s three sons and their wives, Bob Jr. and Pam, Rick and CT, and Buck; and the three grandchildren, Robby, his sister Libby and Olivia. Bob’s wife, Rollie, also sat on the board prior to her death in January.
The nonprofit distributes about $75,000 annually in grant monies to local grassroots organizations. Some grants are as small as $3,000, and others, such as the project to renovate the Bob Allen Park at Edgewood Children’s Ranch, reach $120,000.
The Allen Family Foundation is continuing Rollie’s legacy with the creation of The Memo Award, $10,000 to be granted to a worthy organization, Allen said. It will be given out annually in May around Rollie’s birthday. Along with the money, the recipient also gets an award with a hibiscus on it — painted by Rollie, who loved the flower.
“We want to have greater impact on the smaller nonprofits … that don’t get a lot of funding from the big organizations,” Allen said.
“We all have active lives, and what Rollie did was perfect because she ingrained into everybody, even before I came into the picture, she said to be involved in the community,” Allen said. “She and Bob said, ‘We are so blessed; you also have to give back.’ It was a great lesson. She didn’t just preach it, but she modeled it. I’m still trying to catch up.”