Despite COVID-19, the Whitley County Fiscal Court and the Whitley County Tourism Commission still plan to hold the annual Kayaking for Kids kayaking and Jon Boat race this year. Suffice it to say though that it will look a little different this year than it has in past years though.
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr., whose office helps plan the event, said there was a lot of discussion about the coronavirus, but organizers feel they can have the event and still comply with social distancing.
White said the most import factor that went into the decision to proceed with the race is that most of the proceeds go to benefit school resource centers, which are probably in their great need situations right now.
“They are not able to do fundraisers at schools now that they ordinarily can do. All of these kids are at home and probably in as much need as they have ever been. They are probably in the greatest need situations that they have ever been in,” White said.
“We felt bad about the thought of canceling the event with those kids in the most need, and the school resource centers with the least resources to provide for them. We want to do the best we can to try and have the event, and try and raise as much as we can for those kids.”
Whitley County’s Fourth Annual Kayaking for Kids will take place on Saturday, Aug. 1, with the starting line for the 2.5 mile race at the Ballard Ford East river access and the finish line at the Redbird Bridge. Contestants will get out of the water at the boat ramp adjacent to the trash gate.
On the morning of the race, participants will be asked to offload their kayaks at the Ballard Ford East boat launch, and then drive their vehicles over to the boat ramp at Red Bird. A shuttle will be provided to take people back to Ballard Ford East.
There will be some changes to the race this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Rather than being a race where all the participants start at once, and the winner is the person, who crosses the finish line first, this year’s event will be a timed race.
Participants will be asked if they want to register as a “racer” or a “floater” with racing participants being released from the start line first in groups of 10 people.
Winners will be determined based on best time.
After the “racers” are released, the “floaters” will be released.
When contestants get to the finish line, they should collect their belongings, their sack lunches, and leave the vicinity.
Winners will be announced on Facebook after the races, and prizes will be mailed to the winners.
Officials aren’t sure how coronavirus fears will affect turnout for the race.
“It is too early to tell. We still have over a month until the event,” White noted.
There is a $20 pre-registration fee for participants, which goes up to $30 on race day.
White said that organizers understand things are tight for local businesses, which have also been affected by the coronavirus, but they are hopeful that they will be able to raise about the same amount of money as last year. A few thousand dollars have already been raised.
Last year the race had over 150 participants and 99 boats taking part, and raised a little over $15,000.
All proceeds will benefit the Upward Basketball program, and the family resource centers in Whitley County.
Last year, the Upward Basketball programs in Corbin and Williamsburg each received $1,100 or enough money to provide 25 scholarships for each program, which went to children whose parents can’t afford the participation fee.
Also, $1,611.25 checks were distributed to Corbin Primary, Corbin Elementary, Oak Grove, Whitley Central Primary/Intermediate School, Whitley North, Whitley East, Boston/Pleasant View, and Williamsburg Elementary schools.
Sponsors are currently being sought for the race.
If you or your business would like to be a sponsor or if you have questions about the race, contact Amber Owens at (606) 549-6000.