Swan-boat races held for good cause

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Racers celebrate as they cross the finish line at Lake Eola on May 16. S.T. CARDINAL

Racers celebrate as they cross the finish line at Lake Eola on May 16. S.T. CARDINAL

The Orlando Fire Department took home the trophy, but A Gift for Teaching was the real winner.

The Rotary Club of Orlando hosted the 2019 Swan Boat Races at Lake Eola Park on May 16. Attendees were encouraged to bring new or gently used children’s books to the event to donate to A Gift for Teaching, a non-profit organization that provides teachers with school materials for their students.

“They’ve had the event in years past, and it was on a Saturday, so we decided to move it to a Thursday night to try and generate more interest, more families coming because the beneficiary is A Gift for Teaching,” said Lisa Henry, a Rotarian and City of Orlando employee. “For books and things like that for the under-privileged kids in lower-income schools. They don’t have a lot of extra books, so people are donating books, and we’re trying to raise money for them.”

Kelty Zavitz wore a crown and a white dress with swans printed on it. That’s because she is Miss Swan City 2019 and will be competing to become Miss Florida 2019. She was there to present the trophy to the winner. Zavitz said she has benefited first-hand from A Gift for Teaching. She’s a fourth-grade teacher at Lake Sybelia Elementary.

“They’ve given me a ton of school supplies,” Zavitz said. “They supply us with books, backpacks — just different things that my students might need that I’m not always able to provide myself. So, it’s very helpful. My first year teaching I was scrounging together to get everything for my classroom, so having an organization like this to help me out was a godsend.”

Buoys were set up in the iconic lake, forming lanes as well as the start and finish line. Airhorns signaled the start of each race, and the races were competitive. There was shoving of other boats and detours way out of lanes. Some races came down to the wire and had to be decided by judges who navigated in kayaks to get a better view of the finish line.

Sixteen teams competed, battling to make it to the final round, which turned out to be the Orlando Fire Department against the Orlando Police Department. The fire department came out on top and took home the silver swan trophy.

According to Rotary Club of Orlando President-elect Bill Peeper, $400 was raised and 600 books were donated. The event was a joint effort: Beer was offered by Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, food thanks to Caro-Bama BBQ and the venue (Lake Eola Park) by the City of Orlando.

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