LaSalle Bristol’s ‘Cardboard Boat Race’ a Success

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August 29, 2016 by   Comments Off on LaSalle Bristol’s ‘Cardboard Boat Race’ a Success

Cardboard boat racers traverse through the course at LaSalle Bristol

Cardboard boat racers traverse through the course

Now in its seventh edition, LaSalle Bristol’s Cardboard Boat Race ­has evolved into a sizable community event, as around 600-800 spectators lined the viewing area on Friday (Aug. 29) at the company’s Elkhart, Ind., headquarters to root for 30 race participants vying for bragging rights to claim this year’s championship.

While the competition level has risen, as well as the size and complexity of the boats fashioned from corrugated cardboard and duct tape, the heart of the event is to support the United Way of Elkhart County. LaSalle Bristol President and CEO Rick Karcher, a United Way of Elkhart board member since 2007 who currently serves as chairman, reported to that total donations collected during this year’s run exceeded $30,000 targeted to “help people that are less fortunate in our community.”

This year's event drew a crowd of 600-800 onlookers

This year’s event drew a crowd of 600-800 onlookers to LaSalle Bristol’s facility

“The Cardboard Boat Race annually serves as the kick start for United Way’s Workplace Campaign,” said Karcher, noting that LaSalle Bristol subleases office space to the organization at its Elkhart facility. “For the first time, we solicited donations from all our vendors — I believe that amounted to around $20,000. We also ask people to vote for the best boats, and they will include their donations in the voting box.

“This was certainly our best year, not only for the number of participants but also the amount collected. It’s a tremendous show of support from the Elkhart County community.”

The race is conducted on a large retention pond in front of LaSalle Bristol’s 370,000-square-foot facility in Elkhart with around 300,000 square feet dedicated to warehouse space for the company’s vast selection of products and components for the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries. Participants are comprised of local companies and business entities, including representatives from the RV sector.

Racers show off their boat entry

Racers show off their entry in the Cardboard Boat Race

“The course is made up of buoys that we set up around the pond in a square pattern,” Karcher said. “Every year the state police water rescue squad is here and they ride around the course creating waves to make it more difficult. We always have a few boats that sink before they get to the finish line.

“We ran six heats this year because of the higher number of racers, and then the winners are pitted in the final run. All the teams are pretty competitive — it’s unbelievable how detailed and sophisticated the boat designs have become.”

For the record, IU Health took this year’s top prize, unseating ADEC which entered the race as the reigning champ for the past four years. ADEC is a nonprofit entity that provides assistance for family members or individuals with disabilities to connect with state agencies for assistance.

“It’s a lot of fun, not only for the racers but for everybody that showed up for the event,” said Director of Marketing Gil Brown. “The different teams adopted themes this year and even dressed in uniforms. It’s really become a lot more elaborate over the years.”

Karcher noted that while the idea is to put on an entertaining race, the driving force is to provide United Way with a platform for its Workplace Campaign.

“One of the main things they do through the Workplace Campaign is visit different companies in Elkhart County to set up a payroll reduction plan where employees can donate a dollar – or whatever they’re comfortable with – from their paycheck each week,” he said. “They go in and talk to the workers about how $1 a week can really help the needy in our community. We are very pleased to be able to continue to support United Way.”


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