ELKHART — Intrepid sailors competed by paddling their cardboard boats in a race to help kick off the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign on Friday.

The United Way of Elkhart County hosted its 10th Great Cardboard Boat Race in the LaSalle Bristol Pond in front of the United Way of Elkhart County and LaSalle Bristol’s offices on C.R. 17.

More than 50 teams competed in the race as thousands cheered in the crowd for their favorite team.

“This marks the kickoff of our fall corporate campaign drive where individuals are empowered through their workplace to give a little out of their paycheck on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis to help combine with our hundreds other corporations in our community to impact the thousands of lives in the community,” said Keith Sarber, United Way’s vice president of community impact.

The boats competed with two-and- four-person teams in a lap around the pond. Some didn’t even get to set off as they sunk or turned over. Others, however, powered through to the finish.

Eight qualifying heats were followed by a last-chance “Crusade Race” for losing ships and then the final race for the championship.

The championship trophy is passed down each year from one winner to the next and a small plaque for each organization and the year they won is added.

This year’s winning team was Goshen Health with Utilimaster, last year's champion, coming in second place. 

Sarber said he believes this year was the highest turnout for the race with more than 2,000 people attending.

“I think this race is a very unique event,” Sarber said when asked what he thinks contributes to the growing attendance numbers. “You don’t find very many other cardboard boat races. It’s a very fun family friendly event and I think we’ve been able to build on the success of previous years.”

Fundraising totals aren’t finalized, but more than $75,000 was raised by 5 p.m. Friday, said Ashley Bowen, director of development for United Way. Last year, the event raised $72,000, she said.

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