The Elkhart River Challenge provides fun and raises money for Elkhart community

NOW: The Elkhart River Challenge provides fun and raises money for Elkhart community

ELKHART, Ind. -- The Elkhart River Challenge is the first of its kind: a kayak race from Goshen to Elkhart, all to raise money for a local charity.

The race kicked off bright and early Saturday morning, with nearly thirty kayakers hitting the water to raise money for Lacasa, an organization that works to create affordable housing in Elkhart County, particularly in Elkhart and Goshen. Lacasa wanted to create a fundraiser that would help connect the two cities.

“We started with ideas like walking, running- things like that," said Chris Kinglsey, President and CEO of Lacasa. "But we really thought about the rivers as we brainstormed this and thought it would be a great idea to connect it via the rivers.”

The race started at Lincoln Avenue bridge in Goshen, and the kayakers traveled 17.2 miles upriver, and finished at the Elkhart Avenue bridge in the city of Elkhart. The kayaker who finished the quickest stood to make some serious money: a $2,000 prize.

The race's winner- Matt Meersman- was perhaps too quick!

Meersman said “I got down to the finish line, I saw the big banner but I didn’t see anybody there, and I was like ‘aw man, I think I beat the timers!’”

“To be honest with you, we’re amazed at how quick, in particular our first two racers ran this course," said Kinglsey. "So that’ll be a fun goal for people to try and beat in future years.”

Despite the prize money, for the participants it was much more than that- it was about having a good time and to raise money for a good cause,

“It feels really good," said Meersman "I mean, it’s a great organization, and I appreciate them bringing some attention to the river, which is something I care about a lot.”

Austin Schwinn, another kayaker who took second place, said "Growing up in Goshen, I’ve heard about Lacasa for years- my parents have been involved with donating stuff to it- and just very happy to help an organization like that that gives back to the community.”

Lacasa as been thrilled by the support and number of people who came out to race.

“That’s a good turnout for a first year," said Kinglsey. "We’re happy with it.”

And Lacasa is anticipating that this will be more than a one time event.

“The hope is to build this event going forward to have it be an annual event, again to support Lacasa but also to be a fun, energizing Elkhart County event," Kinglsey said. 

Despite some spills along the way, those who came out seemed eager to come back next year. 

“Oh absolutely. I absolutely would do this again," said Schwinn. "And I’d recommend it to anyone else, you know? Have a boat- rent a boat- come out and do it!”




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