Dunebrook wins as dragon boat races pack beach
La PORTE – “It never rains on dragon boat day” Tim Gartland, event co-director and emcee, says jokingly, “even if it sprinkles.”
Indeed, the weather cooperated for the fifth annual Dunebrook Dragon Boat Races. Twenty teams registered for this year’s event, up from 15 teams in previous events.
Stone Lake beach was crowded with people, tents, games and activities as racers from the La Porte area and as far away as Chicago showed up to race. An estimated $15,000 was raised on Saturday to help facilitate Dunebrook’s services.
Dunebrook’s main purpose, according to Gartland, is to help children be safe, happy and healthy.
“We do through home visitation, community education and our child advocacy center – interviewing kids who have been in potential abuse situations. Dunebrook goes out into the community to help teach parenting skills. We go out and teach business professionals, teachers how to spot child abuse.”
Dunebrook also tries to put families in touch with other services in the community, like food pantries, shelters and other assistance services.
The work that Dunebrook does is serious business, but the events on Saturday were all about fun as crews crowded the beach, a scene reminiscent of tailgaters outside a NASCAR speedway.
There was some rivalry as the American Renolit crew taunted the crew from UPS. Others played corn hole and snake toss while waiting for their turn to race.
Boat crews consist of 20-person teams and a drummer; and race in heats of three boats at a time, each team racing three times.
The La Porte High School Choir, LPHS wrestling and teams from New Prairie and Marquette high schools lined up next to teams with corporate sponsors like American Licorice and the two-time defending champs from UPS boat.
However, in an amazing upset, the Applegate CPAs’ boat crew won the dragon boat title.
Aside from raising money, the event organizers hope the race brings awareness. Dunebrook Board president Ted Perzanowski estimated that 600 people on the beach were made aware of Dunebrook and the needs of children in the region.