ELKHART — Church Community Services’ first Amazing Elkhart Race, which was held Saturday to raise money for the faith-based interdenominational nonprofit agency, and “to spotlight what’s amazing about Elkhart,” proved that when groups within a community come together for a common cause, a lot of fun can be had by all.
The popular TV reality series “The Amazing Race” served as the model for the event, which consisted of 17 teams of four “adventure-seeking people” who competed to complete 11 different legs with different challenges at different stops throughout the city, and to hopefully win the top team prize of $2,000, part of the $4,200 of prize money that the four top teams could win.
The race finishers raised $17,400 through online fundraiser pages and “any way they wanted to raise money,” said Carol Willis, development director of Church Community Services. “There was one team that raised money by selling jelly beans from Wakarusa. The incentive was that the top two fundraisers ahead of time had a three-minute advantage. And then we gave them another incentive for today to continue raising money.”
Each team also paid a $50 entry fee. Sponsors donated $7,000, which helped to pay for the prize money and costs associated with the event.
Raised funds will go toward Church Community Services’ local food pantry, emergency financial assistance and Soup of Success, the women’s job and life skills training program.
Rod Roberson, executive director of Church Community Services, said Pillars of Elkhart “stepped up” and helped to plan all of the logistical legs of the Amazing Race. “It kind of fit their mission, and it fits ours because we’re trying to encourage more cooperation within certain groups in the city. This opportunity was a good opportunity for us to highlight points of interest in Elkhart. Things that are prominent inside the city from an artistic standpoint, and from a visitation standpoint, and we tried to also work in a glimpse of what it’s like for people who may be in poverty.”
The race began at the Elkhart Civic Plaza, and the teams were soon on their way to the Lerner Theatre, where they had to perform a pantomime routine that judges had to solve before the teams could move on and receive their next clue.
Michael Byron of Edwardsburg, Mich., participated with “Team CTS,” and said that “it has been really fun to try and run across Elkhart, and the blindfolded croquet game at Ruthmere was very neat.” The challenge was for one blindfolded team member to hit a croquet ball through two wickets and then hit a stake while being coached by teammates. Greg Greene of Middlebury participated with the “Mean Greene” team, and said he enjoyed “the community spirit, and finding new ways to do things for people.”
Theresa Hoeft of Granger participated with the “ACTS3” team with her husband Jerrod and their friends Justin and Tabby Bratt of Middlebury, who all volunteer at CCS on Sunday mornings. Hoeft said the running was the most challenging aspect of the race. “It’s a lot of running, and we didn’t expect that, but that’s OK. You stop when you need to stop, and you go when you need to go, and we’re trying to keep up with the younger kids. There’s a little sweat but that’s all right, and we smell bad, but that’s all right, too.”
Diane Kaeser of Goshen participated with the “Hershies Heroes” team. “Everything is a new surprise right around the corner. You never know what we’re going to get into — everything from using your brain, to using teamwork, and your physical abilities — it’s been a blast so far,” Kaeser said.
The “Bald and the Beautiful” team finished first with a time of two hours and 56 minutes, followed within the minute by the “Kem Krest” team. The “We Heart Cindy C.” team finished third. Sponsors of the event included DuMor Water, Universal Forest Products, Jones Obenchain LLP, Rise ’n’ Roll Bakery, Boling Vision Center, Seifert Drugs, First Presbyterian Church and Bimbo Bakeries.