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Kayaks, canoes take to the lake for United Way

The first Yak-Coe fundraiser for the Heart of Kentucky United Way was held at Cedar Creek Lake in Lincoln County on Friday. It brought in more than 60 kayak and canoe paddlers from across the state and Indiana to the scavenger hunt, which was an innovative idea that Executive Director Stephanie Blevins came up with to raise much needed funds for the organization during the current pandemic.

Blevins said HKUW needs to continue raising money to fund its programs that serve residents of Boyle, Lincoln, Garrard and Mercer counties, even during the COVID-19 restrictions, which makes traditional fundraisers more challenging.

Blevins said the Yak-Coe event was a way to raise money, and for people to enjoy the outdoors and stay socially distant from each other. It also had a positive environmental impact because some people chose to scoop up trash along the banks instead of participating in the scavenger hunt.

Blevins and her husband enjoy kayaking as a hobby, like many people have discovered. “But there’s not many outlets, other than just for personal fun,” She said.

That’s why she came up with the idea of a fundraiser scavenger hunt for other paddlers. “This is something I’d like to do,” Blevins said as she helped people register for the hunt.

Joeann Bright, of Stanford, said she wanted to try out the new adventure too. Proud of being 90 years old, Bright said she’d been kayaking three other times and thought paddling to raise money for HKUW would be fun. She’s already been whitewater rafting and ziplining. After settling into a kayak and looking over her “treasure map,” Bright said, “It’s just absolutely wonderful.”

The gist of the scavenger hunt was that paddlers had an hour and a half to follow a map to find the hidden stickers placed at different locations, peel one off and place one from each site on its corresponding square on a waterproof page that each person has strapped to their boat.

At the end of the allotted time, paddlers received tickets for each sticker found and put them in a drawing for a variety of donated prizes.

Blevins said HKUW had 19 sponsors for the event and 10 prize sponsors.

Because of the larger than expected turnout, Blevins said they are already planning next year’s Yak-Coe event. But it won’t replace the HKUW’s iconic .5 K race, she said, which is another fun and light-hearted event she’s turned into a fundraiser for the organization.

The .5 K will be held later this year, but it will have a twist, she said.

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