By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

The United Way of Harrison County (UWHC) is making plans to get its 2016 campaign underway. This year’s theme is “Be A Lifesaver”, a name that seems appropriate since funds raised are truly a ‘lifesaver’ for the member agencies supported by United Way.
One of last year’s events will be making a comeback to kick off the 2016 fundraising effort. Once again, making use of the “Be A Lifesaver” theme, they have decided to begin the campaign with a second annual cardboard boat race, an event that drew a good crowd last year – despite poor weather.
“We held our first cardboard boat race last year on Columbus Day – October 12th – and it was quite chilly!” stated Marie Battles, UWHC Executive Director. “But we were pleased to have such a good turnout. We had nine boats participating and a whole lot of spectators on hand. It was a really fun day, and with the exception of two ‘sinkers’, the rest of the boats finished the race.”
Being their first such activity last year, Marie called it a good learning experience, and some changes will come into play this year.
“First of all, it was cold enough in mid-October last year that we were giving out hot chocolate, so I know the water had to have been quite chilling. That’s another reason to schedule this event earlier – on September 13th this year,” she explained. “We will also have a better PA system this time around as well as a food vendor on site and some musical entertainment. In addition to being a day of family fun, it is a day to show community support … and the constructive creativity our boatmakers have utilized is really something to see!”
If you’ve never been to a cardboard boat race before (or perhaps have never even heard of it!), it is just what its name implies. Yes, it is a timed race and boats in different divisions compete against one another for the best time. And yes, boats are built entirely of cardboard – no Styrofoam or floatation accessories are allowed! Boats are inspected prior to the race to ensure that all rules have been followed. Bring your own oars, decorate the boats as creatively as you like, be sure to have a life preserver, and there must be a minimum of two people in the boat. (A complete list of rules and regulations is available at United Way of Harrison County’s website – www.unitedwayhcwv.org.)
Awards will be given for the fastest overall boat, division awards, and spectators can cast a vote for $1 for the People’s Choice award. This year a special award will be given to the boat with the most spectacular sinking – called “The Wonder That Went Down Under”!
“Winners get a lot of bragging rights, a trophy, and a ‘Live United’ t-shirt,” Battles added.
If you’re thinking about participating, don’t fret about where to get the cardboard; United Way has a cardboard supplier!
You can register to participate online at the address above or download a registration form and mail it to UWHC. Fees are as follows:
– Junior Division (ages 13-17) – Individual – $20
– Junior Division – Team – $30
– Family Division – Individual – $25
– Family Division – Team (children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian) – $40
– Adult Division (18 & over) – Individual – $30
– Adult Division – Team – $50
– Business Division – Individual – $60
– Business Division – Team – $100
– Not for Profit – Individual – $30
– Not for Profit – Team – $40
Remember the race is on Sunday, September 13th with check-in beginning at 12:30 p.m. The race is held at Deegan Lake in Bridgeport.
“This really is such a fun day and we’re hopeful that we’ll have even more participants this year,” Marie concluded. “People really went all out last year to construct some unique boats; we had some very creative cardboard vessels. In addition to being exciting for the participants, it is interesting for spectators to watch the race, to observe the one-of-a-kind boats, and to appreciate the time put into it and the creativity that has been employed. And for us at United Way, it is an opportunity to bring people together that we have perhaps no prior relationship with and to educate them on what United Way is all about.”
Unfortunately, many families today are in unstable situations, and they turn to agencies funded by the United Way for assistance and counseling. When you contribute to the United Way, for instance, that funding helps to provide meals and socialization for the elderly through the Bi-County Nutrition Program … that funding supports people with disabilities discover vocational skills and career potential with Empowerment Through Employment … that funding provides shelter and services for sexual assault and domestic violence victims through Hope, Inc. … that funding helps give medical care for qualifying uninsured adults through Health Access … and these are just a few of the many member agencies of the United Way of Harrison County. In so many ways, the United Way is a “lifesaver” to many of our neighbors right here in our local communities.

As you can see, lots of creativity went into some of last year’s entries … like the cardboard pirate ship pictured here, the entry from WYK Associates that was complete with crossed swords and fake artillery!
As you can see, lots of creativity went into some of last year’s entries … like the cardboard pirate ship pictured here, the entry from WYK Associates that was complete with crossed swords and fake artillery!