Vashon Youth & Family Services hopes to draw 2,500 kayaks and canoes into Quartermaster Harbor this September for a record-breaking raft-up event, a gathering that will highlight the way communities can be stronger when they pull together, organizers say.
Kathleen Johnson, VYFS’s new executive director, said the tiny town of Inlet, N.Y., with a population of 300, set the record last year, when it put on a fundraiser that drew 1,902 kayaks and canoes. Johnson’s hoping to get 2,500 kayaks and canoes on the water, a feat that could place Vashon in the record books and raise more than $100,000 for the Vashon agency, she said.
“Rafting up” is a term used in kayaking; when there’s danger — high waves or a large boat approaching — kayakers will often pull together, grabbing each other’s boat or oars to make themselves sturdier or create a higher profile for a passing ship. Johnson said the metaphor of rafting up is a perfect one for community life.
“When you’re kayaking, you feel independent. But when you get into trouble, you raft up for stability,” she said. “It speaks to bringing all sorts of people together and recognizing that we’re stronger when we’re together.”
The idea has caught the imagination of other organizations on large bodies of water, and at least three other groups are trying to break Inlet’s record. Johnson said she’s not surprised other communities are attempting it.
“It’s a beautiful event. It’s just visually stunning,” she said.
VYFS’s effort will take place Sept. 1, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. It will take a lot to pull it off, however, and Johnson and her board have already begun to seek volunteers, including someone to oversee logistics, communications and volunteer recruitment.
Those interested in participating should contact VYFS board member Diane Kjellberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information will be posted on VYFS’s Facebook page.