Lake Wales Breakfast Rotarians know it well.
Say the words “Big Kahuna,” and their eyes light up.
On Oct. 26, the Breakfast Rotarians will hold their annual Big Kahuna boat race, starting at 9 a.m. at the Lake Wailes Boat Ramp.
The race serves as a fundraiser to provide a Boys and Girls Camp for several very deserving fourth and - grade boys and girls from the Lake Wales community.
These girls are appointed by their school principals as very deserving, according to the Rotary Facebook page.
The goal the club has is to sign up 20 teams, and each team must have 10-14 paddlers to be eligible for awards.
Lunch is included for each team.
Entry fee is $650 per team.
There are also sponsorship opportunities. For $100, a person or business can get a sign on leaderboard, lifejackets, or paddles. For $250, one can become a first, second or third place trophy sponsor. To become a Race Course A or B sponsor, a Food Tent sponsor, Check In tent sponsor, or Big Kahuna Trophy sponsor, that is $500. For $1,000, one can become an event sponsor with their name connected to the event.
All sponsors of $500 or more are permitted to promote their businesses with special exhibits at the event.
Breakfast Rotarians suggest that teams dress to the Big Kahuna theme “for added fun.”
Large canoes, life jackets and paddles are provided.
According to Bill Redmon, who heads up Wild Creek Adventures and helps provide the canoes, “It is a fun day. There is just a lot of energy in the air, and when you get 10 or 15, we have 18 teams this year, all showing up, they are all excited.”
Redmon notes it is friendly competition, adding that there will be activities in addition to the paddling races, including music from Bok Academy and Hillcrest Elementary musicians.
The idea in the race is to take the canoe and paddle around the buoy and back. “It is really fun watching the other teams improve,” he said.
Though it is fun, “There is definitely an element of frustration to it.”
He said that the race initially started years ago when the city had asked him to bring canoes to the Fourth of July celebration. Then the Breakfast Rotary Club was asked to do centennial for Rotary’s 100 year celebration, so they decided to do a fundraiser for the soccer park.
They created a canoe race, and eventually also took it to the Pioneer Days.
“We still consider ourselves part of the Pioneer Days Celebration,” he said.
Later, Rotarians used the race to raise money for Shelter Box, and then decided to theme it, naming it “The Big Kahuna.”
It happened about the same time as the Rotarians started the Girls’ Camp, so the fundraiser started raising money for that effort.
Between both Girls and Boys camp, it takes about $20,000 to do both camps, Redmon said, for about 64 students in each camp.
Cheryl Bossarte, who heads up the Girls Camp, notes, “For me, it’s a way to give back. We have made our girls camp a fun program with lots of quiet mentoring involved throughout the weekend. Our camp shirts are our inspiration and our counselors talk about the shirts when the opportunities present themselves. Our shirts look like a flower with the center of the flower saying “I AM” and the petals say ‘SMART, UNIQUE, IMPORTANT, BEAUTIFUL AND FUN.’ The weekend is full of fun and excitement as the girls rotate through many different activities, all designed to give them a new experience.”
Each camp is well-staffed, and many of the staffers are also school teachers and nurses.
“The whole weekend is special and it culminates on Sunday when the girls put a skit together in front of the group and also have the opportunity to stand up and tell their fellow campers what this camp has meant to them,” Bossarte says.
“Those are the most special times. Many girls will tell us this was their first opportunity to canoe, shoot arrows, go on a paddle boat, or throw a tomahawk, but when a camper stands up and says, ‘I’ve felt so special this weekend’ or ‘I know now that I am unique and that’s ok — I don’t have to be like everybody else.’ It will bring tears to your eyes and warm your heart; it’s then that you confirm what a great experience our camp is and you start planning to make the next year’s camp even better.”