2015-09-10 / Local News

Who needs record? Floatilla raises $50,000 for good causes

By Eric Carlson Of The Enterprise staff


KAYAKS LINE the beach at the Suttons Bay Marina Park on Saturday just prior to an attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest numbers of canoes and kayaks rafted together. KAYAKS LINE the beach at the Suttons Bay Marina Park on Saturday just prior to an attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest numbers of canoes and kayaks rafted together. Although the Suttons Bay Floatilla came far short of the number of rafted canoes and kayaks required to beat a world record, event organizers did raise more than $50,000 to support various local causes.

The Guinness Book of World Records will continue to list a group in Inlet, NY, as assembling the biggest-ever raft of canoes and kayaks, 3,151. The effort raised about $150,000 for breast cancer research in 2014.

Chris DeJong, of the volunteer nonprofit group Suttons Bay Community First, said the unofficial, on-the-water count of canoes and kayaks rafted Saturday afternoon in Suttons Bay was 1,123.

That was about 36 percent of the number needed to break the record, although the number of canoes and kayaks registered for the event was “significantly higher” than the number counted in the water.

The New York group last summer beat the old record of 2,099 canoes and kayaks set in Suttons Bay in 2013. At the time, the Suttons Bay Floatilla set out to break the record of 1,902 canoes and kayaks set by another New York group in 2011. The first-ever Suttons Bay Floatilla, conducted in 2012, fell short of breaking the record as well, with 1,750 canoes and kayaks counted.

But setting a record was only one part of the reason for the 2015 Floatilla.

“We are really happy with the outcome in spite of not getting a record or even coming close,” DeJong said. “It was an incredibly beautiful day on the water, and the feedback we received, both from locals and those who came great distances, was incredibly positive.

“The only glitch of the entire event was the plane (slated to take aerial photos) could not take off due to a low ceiling, but we improvised with drone footage and a brave soul willing to climb the mast of the Inland Seas schooner to get overhead photographs,” DeJong said.

“There was even a (marriage) proposal on the water,” DeJong added. “She said ‘yes.’”

DeJong said the non-profit raised “in excess of $50,000” through registrations, donations, merchandise sales, and “very generous sponsors.”

In terms of donating money to Suttons Bay Public Schools (SPBS), DeJong explained, the group offered to various teams, departments, groups and affiliated organizations the opportunity to volunteer for the event, “with donations to those groups determined by the actual number of hours put in by students and adult coaches, teachers, parents, etc., during Floatilla.”

Because of the “tremendous financial success of the event,” DeJong said, the organization decided to double the amount raised by each group, totaling about $30,000. An exact breakdown was not immediately available.

“After the initial payout to the SBPS groups, the balances generated by Floatilla will be used to pay for the new sound system we had installed at the Suttons Bay High School track and football field this summer, worth about $13,000, and fund additional requests throughout the year,” DeJong said.

She noted that Suttons Bay Community First has always donated to the Suttons Bay High School Senior Party and provided “significant funding” to the school’s Business Professionals of America chapter to attend a national competition in California this spring. DeJong said she believed the community organization might do so again, and now has additional “seed money” for future endeavors as well.

DeJong explained that other schools and Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan also benefitted from each registration made using a promotion code assigned to those particular organizations. Lake Leelanau St. Mary School and Traverse City St. Francis School were represented and will benefit. As of earlier this week, however, exact amounts had not yet been determined.

There was no word on whether another Suttons Bay Floatilla will be organized in the future.

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