In 1974 the Lockheed Corporation donated a hyperbaric chamber to the University of Southern California (USC) in an arrangement set up between USC and Los Angeles County, and the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber officially opened for business, evaluating and treating injured divers.
Fifteen years later, in 1989, the facility nearly closed due to a funding crisis. That’s when Roger Hess, then owner of Charisma Charters, came up with the idea that all local dive charter boats should come together for a day of diving, with all proceeds being donated to support the chamber. This became the original Chamber Day. (Hess died in March, 2012.)
Forty-two years later, Chamber Day continues to raise money to support the Catalina Chamber — the only hyperbaric chamber in SoCal dedicated solely to the treatment of diving accidents. Treatment is available 24 hours a day, year-round.
The event has grown to more than 1,000 participants and includes Chamber Eve, the Flying Dutchman and the Chamber Challenge. In recent years these events have raised more than $100,000 annually. Last year’s total raised just over $120,000. Chamber Day is considered the largest single-day scuba charity event in the United States. All monies raised are donated to the chamber. Donated funds provide more than 50 percent of the chamber’s annual operating budget. This year’s event takes place on Wednesday, May 4.
Local SoCal dive operators and charter boats donate their time and services, equipment manufacturers donate gear for raffle prizes, the Aquarium of the Pacific donates their facility for the Chamber Eve event, and hundreds of volunteers donate their time. No administrative fees are deducted from the proceeds.
This year’s Chamber Day and Chamber Eve events include:
Chamber Day, which includes two dives at Catalina, plus a walking tour of the Chamber facilities at the Isthmus. The cost is $110 per person, which gets you the diving, the tour, a T-shirt, and five daytime raffle tickets. An additional $30 charge goes to the charter boat to cover the cost of food and air fills. Proof of scuba certification is required.
Those who can’t take the day off but would like to participate, may support the Flying Dutchman — a mythical boat that is a big part of Chamber Day and the perfect option for those who can’t attend in person. “Diving” the Dutchman gets you five daytime raffle tickets and a special T-shirt available only to folks who sign up for the Dutchman. The cost is $95.
There’s also the Chamber Challenge, which “challenges” the diving community to raise extra funds for the Chamber through direct donations (mostly $100 pledges, but also $500 and $1,000, and even $5,000 and $10,000).
Daytime raffle tickets are $1 each, with discounts for bulk purchases. Raffle ticket holders do not need to be present to win.
Chamber Evening, co-sponsored by the Aquarium of the Pacific, wraps things up. The event includes full access to the Aquarium, a sit-down dinner in the Great Hall, and a raffle. The cost is $110 per ticket.
For more information, visit chamberday.org or call Chamber Day HQ at (310) 652-4990.