ELKHART — United Way of Elkhart County will launch its 2016 fundraising campaign on Friday with the annual "Great Cardboard Boat Race."
The 30-plus cardboard vessels this year are a record and exceeded expectations, event organizers said.
Area companies will spend the next several weeks constructing boats out of cardboard, duct tape and polyurethane. Some boats were designed on a napkin over morning coffee while others were elaborately mapped out on AutoCAD, according to United Way organizers.
Veteran crews will be returning, along with a fleet of new participants.
Teams will compete in heats, with winners competing in several final heats. During the final race, teams race down and retrieve a rubber ducky, circle a buoy and race for home.
Boat crews will be eligible to win trophies for Best In Race, Judges' Choice, People’s Choice, Live United spirit, Cardboard Crusader Race and the Wonder that Went Down Under.
The event is open to the public and will feature a tailgate-style atmosphere with food trucks and a beverage stand. The race is expected to draw a record 1,500 spectators.
United Way of Elkhart County began the event seven years ago as a way to launch its fundraising campaign. In the months following the race, United Way will raise money through an employee workforce campaign that partners with local companies. The money raised in Elkhart County stays local and is used to advance the common good, organizers say.
The goal this year is $2.2 million, a 10 percent increase from last year, according to Judy Jankowski, director of resource development and donor relations. She said United Way aims to increase fundraising totals by 10 percent every year.
Donations can be made at the race, through the mail or during workforce campaigns, she said. Once the money has been raised, community committees will meet with United Way staff to determine how to allocate the money.
United Way focuses on providing services and support for working families in the areas of education, income and health. The annual campaign generally yields about $2 million, given by over 6,000 donors employed in 200 local companies.