Cincinnati residents Mike and Jennifer Wilcox had recently bought a vacation home in Anna Maria Island when the pandemic shut down all vacation rentals in the state of Florida. Mike says the change squeezed their finances, but thankfully they were able to ride out the storm.
Unable to rent out their vacation home, the Wilcoxes came up with a great way to give back instead.
Mike, a firefighter for 17 years himself, emailed and called several fire, paramedic, and police departments in the area to offer their vacation home as a place for first responders exposed to COVID to quarantine. The deputy chief of South Manatee Fire Rescue gratefully accepted the offer. At first the chief misunderstood and started to give Mike a credit card to pay for a member of his team to stay at the 2-bedroom, 1-bath beach house. Mike declined. “You don’t need to pay a penny. We want to do this to help,” Mike says.
According to Mike, his wife Jennifer, an educator for over 20 years, was a big part of the plan. “She’s always so optimistic. When the idea started to form, she was all fired up about it.”
The first person to stay at the Wilcoxes’ vacation rental needed to quarantine away from home due to a member of their family being medically fragile. “It felt good to be able to do this small thing for those who put it all on the line,” Mike says.
The couple, who planned to retire in Florida in a few years, ended up retiring sooner than they expected due to the pandemic. Now they live in Bradenton full-time and have been able to rent out their Anna Maria Island vacation home once again.
Vrbo, the vacation rental online marketplace that the Wilcoxes partner with caught wind of their generosity. As a result, Mike was put on a short list to be the coin tosser at this year’s Vrbo Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on New Year’s Day. And now guess who’s been studying tape on coin tossing and practicing his heads-or-tails skills every opportunity he gets? Mike Wilcox.
Mike is excited to be getting the opportunity to toss the coin to see if University of Iowa or University of Kentucky will kick or receive at the Vrbo Citrus Bowl.
For the last several years Vrbo has put a spotlight on vacation owners who have gone above and beyond to help their community by selecting them to do the coin toss at the Citrus Bowl. Vrbo’s vice president of partner success Kevin Locraft called what the Wilcoxes did inspiring.
“Jennifer and I just wanted to pay it forward any way we could. We’re humbled by this honor,” Mike says.