Have you ever wanted to try diving but were afraid of the cost of lessons? Well this weekend is your lucky chance to take an introductory diving class free of charge and help raise money for local charities that benefit veteran’s of the Emerald Coast.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 12, Emerald Coast Scuba is hosting their eighth annual Veteran’s Benefit to raise money for two local charities: Healing Paws for Warriors and Bright Horizons.

“This is the biggest thing that we do every year and it’s awesome,” said Emerald Coast Scuba owner Anna Schmitz. “We always try to have a military benefit from it, and this year we have chosen Healing Paws for Warriors, which provides service dogs to veteran’s who can’t afford them, and our second charity is Bright Horizons, which brings scuba to people with mental and physical challenges.”

Besides the free scuba class, there will be many other entertainment and fundraising events going on around the pool. The Big Red Truck will be on site offering fish tacos made from spear-fished lionfish and flounder, Destin Brewery will have local beer on offer, there will be live music, a live auction and the Emerald Coast Scuba Dive Shop will have a massive sale on all of their inventory.

“In the pool, that’s where the main action happens,” said Schmitz. “You come in and you can try scuba for the first time. Our pool was made for scuba training and it is 14-feet deep and it’s a 100,000 gallon pool. If you participate in the scuba class your name goes into the drawing for a free diving certification class.”

As for the live auction, local captain Matt Ronk will be acting as auctioneer and said this year’s auction items are exciting.

“I’ve got a fish fighting chair that belonged to Flipper (a.k.a. captain Bruce Kach of the Thrashing Barbarian) and a few other items from his estate,” said Ronk, noting that the Destin captain passed away this past year and had quite the collection of nautical memorabilia. “He is like a local legend, we called him the last of the Destin pirate boys.”

Also on the auction list will be sail boat charter gift certificates, local art, scuba diving equipment, condo stays, local restaurant gift certificates and much more.

“We are real excited about this year because each year gets a little bit bigger,” said Schmitz. "Everything is free except the live auction, although donations are gratefully excepted for our charity organizations. Also our dive shop has a big sale for everyone preparing for the Christmas season. We’ve been doing scuba in Destin for a long time, this is our 35th year, and we’ve reached that stage in life when you want to give back.”