A couple decades after the last major canoe race along the Illinois River in Cherokee County, several locals are gearing up to bring back the event.
The Tahlequah Kiwanis Club and Northeastern State University are teaming up for the inaugural “Race for the Kids,” set for Saturday, Aug. 20. Kiwanis will use its share of the funds raised to support of local schools, clubs and organizations through various projects. Kiwanians sponsor area students’ camps and trips, awards, educational prizes and more, and frequently complete service projects in the community.
“We expect a big turnout,” said Tahlequah Kiwanis Club President Debra Lack. “We have a variety of programs and services we offer to the community every year, and the funds will be used to support those.”
NSU’s share of the funds will be used for various athletic services, such as scholarships, according to Dwayne Thompson, chairman of Race for the Kids.
“I was in the first two races they did back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” said Thompson. “I was a student at NSU back then. I came up with the idea [to bring back the canoe races] because I knew it wasn’t going on anymore, and back in the ‘80s, there were as many as 300 participants.”
During those canoe races, trophies and medals were awarded to participants, along with the bragging rights of victory.
This month’s inaugural Race for the Kids will feature two-person teams battling to complete the six-mile trek down the Illinois River in the fastest time.
Race events, including pre-registration, begin at Arrowhead Resort along State Highway 10 at 9 a.m. The race kicks off at 11 a.m.
“With the fundraising part of an event like this, we’re going to be happy with whatever we come up with,” said Thompson. “The real goal is to bring it out into the community, to help the community. Next year, we want to expand it to include maybe a bike race, perhaps a 5K run. We may look at a kayak race, maybe some relays.”
Thompson said organizers also hope the event is popular enough to include divisions in future races. He’d especially like to introduce a college division, and reach out to other colleges across the region to find participants.
“Then they could compete against other colleges, and that would draw people into the community,” said Thompson. “Maybe with a college division, we could create a Friday night hype event where we’d get them into town the night before and do some cool stuff.”
Entry fee for this year’s inaugural event is $60 per team. Both participants in the winning teams will receive a prize, and prizes include items such as HDTVs, laptop computers, tablets, and cash prizes for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-places. The sixth-place team will receive its $60 entry fee.
Canoes and equipment will be provided at the race.
Approximately 10 local businesses and entities are sponsoring the inaugural Race for the Kids. Others interested in sponsoring the event can contact Dwayne Thompson at (918) 457-7072. Pre-registration is available on Saturdays at the Illinois River Store and at Arrowhead Resort, on State Highway 10, but those who pre-register must still be at Arrowhead at 9 a.m. on Aug. 20. More information is available by searching on Google for the Tahlequah Kiwanis Race for the Kids Facebook page.
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