U.S. Army veteran Rusty Ezzell of Prairie du Rocher uses a kayak chariot to enter the water during a paddle sports event. 

EUREKA — A new wave will hit the shores of Eureka Lake on Aug. 24 when a group of paddle sports enthusiasts from Decatur will participate in Eureka’s annual Kayak Obstacle Course Race.

The race, in its fifth year, will welcome 10 to 15 disabled U.S. military veterans who are members of a Team River Runner chapter. The national organization offers wounded and disabled veterans opportunities to find health, healing, community purpose and new challenges through participating in paddle sports, according to its website.

Team River Runners’ central region coordinator, Jennifer Hahn, saw the Eureka Lake kayaking event posted on a kayaking website, according to Eureka race organizer Gloria Phelps.

“Jennifer contacted me to ask if the Decatur-area veterans could attend, and we are very excited to have this wonderful group coming to Eureka to participate,” Phelps said.

Members of the veterans’ families and about five crew members who assist the veterans on the water also will attend. The participation fee of $30 per person will be paid by local individuals, Phelps noted.

The vets are particularly excited because it marks their first obstacle course race, according to Hahn. “They have paddled in pools and on lakes, but never before around obstacles or in a race. We so appreciate Gloria and the Eureka organizers making us feel so welcome. It will be a fun day, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

The vets will be among approximately 100 racers. 

The race will include a new obstacle this year: the Water Zip. “If you think along the lines of ziplining, you’ll know that this new obstacle will require racers to pull themselves through the water without a paddle,” Phelps said. “I think people are going to get a big kick out of it."

The event, from 9 a.m. to noon, is open to both experienced kayakers and people new to the sport.

To participate, call 309-532-6683 or email gloria.phelps1@yahoo.com. Information is available at the Washington Park District’s website. Registration deadline is Aug. 21.

Proceeds from the race, after expenses, will go to Heart House in Eureka, which offers shelter services to women and children.


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