Posted Monday, July 4, 2022 10:32 am


Calling the inaugural benefit the “breakout event of the year,” Valerie Gilreath is looking forward to United Way of Bartow County’s second annual Cardboard Boat Race. Set for Aug. 27, the offering will raise awareness and funds for Love Travels Beyond Inc. and Gilreath’s The Bookmobile.

“No one knew what to expect; no one knew how it would go,” said Gilreath — president of The Bookmobile’s board of directors — about last year’s event. “It turned out to be the most fun we had all year. The cardboard boats were incredible. The races were exciting. No one sank!

“All of the feedback from participants and spectators alike was that the event exceeded their expectations. It was just a wonderful day. It’s hard to establish a new signature event, but the Cardboard Boat Race has the potential to grow into one of those events that you anticipate all year long, like Duck Derby or Dances With the Stars.”

Ongoing from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Cardboard Boat Race will be presented at Pine Acres Retreat, 3963 Bartow Carver Road in Acworth. The United Way currently is recruiting teams, vendors and sponsors for the upcoming benefit, which also will launch the organization’s fundraising campaign. Titled “Give Today for a Better Tomorrow,” the annual drive is striving to secure $525,000 from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15.

“The fundraising in the most part will consist of payroll deduction campaigns at companies throughout Bartow County,” said Brenda Morehouse, president of the local United Way. “We have had several new companies come into Bartow County that we would love to do community engagement with and get them involved in the community. I am hoping that our kickoff event may bring some of these companies out to see what United Way is all about and the impact it has made in the community the past 55 years. 

“We are still two months out from our second annual Cardboard Boat Race. Our current top sponsor is TowBoat U.S. at the $5,000 Admiral Level. We still have many sponsorship and vendor slots. Our sponsorship levels and the incentives that go along with them are Commodore Level, $10,000; Admiral Level, $5,000; Captain Level, $2,500; First mate, $1,000; Navigator, $500.”

For more information about sponsorship opportunities, visit then click on “download sponsorship opportunities.”

“We are very committed to community outreach within Bartow County,” said Chris Day, CEO of TowBoatU.S. Lake Allatoona. “I enjoy working with United Way of Bartow County because I can see locally the work they do for the community I live and grew up in.”

Day encourages the community to take part in the event, sharing the Cardboard Race is a “great time and for a great cause.” He gave a shout out to the United Way, saying the organization “makes the event fun” for all involved.

“We weren’t sure how the community would respond to a ‘cardboard boat race’ but we had good participation last year and everyone enjoyed themselves so much that we decided to continue this year with the event,” Morehouse said. “The first year of any event you’re usually lucky to break even, however last year we had a gross profit of $3,000 that was split between the two organizations that helped in planning the event: Love Travels and The Bookmobile. Each agency addresses important programs that are much needed in Bartow County.”

Founded in July 2017, The Bookmobile first focused its efforts in south Bartow and later expanded its reach. During 2020 and 2021, the literary organization gave away a total of nearly 13,750 books. In 2019, 700 books were checked out, 152 new Bookmobile library cards were issued and 3,610 books were distributed to families.

“The Bookmobile — Reading to Go Places is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to increase literacy by increasing access to books,” Gilreath said. “Our programs are aimed at getting books into the hands and homes of children. “We do this through our mobile library — the bookmobile; book giveaway events; and Little Free Libraries throughout Bartow County. We also administer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Bartow County in partnership with Bartow County government.”

Love Travels Beyond was established by Scottlin Smith in 2017 when she was a student at the University of West Georgia. “We just celebrated five years of serving communities,” Smith said. “Our purpose is to spread love in our community and convince others to do the same. Our main focus is youth development. As we serve, we take the youth with us.

“As cliché as it sounds, we really want to be the change we wish to see in the world. We are doing that and hosting events to put love in action. We are just off of a large event and heading into planning for the school year. Right now we are focused on building a better foundation for our programs and this event will help us do just that.”

Encouraging the community to participate in the upcoming benefit, Morehouse shared crafting a vessel out of cardboard isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

“There will be different heats for the Cardboard Boat Race, taking their cardboard boats across the cove then changing sailors to cross back over to the finish line,” Morehouse said. “It’s really not as hard as it seems to build a cardboard boat if you have a group of people. Last year, none of the boats sank and it was truly exciting to see the race.

“… For those boat racing, here is some basic information — no more than two people in a boat, they must be 18 years (unless a waiver signed by the parents and then 15 years old is the youngest) and wear a life jacket during the race. The boat cannot be made of any floating device, such as Styrofoam. It has to be all cardboard but you can use sealant, wood glue, flex seal or similar products to keep it together.”

Further details about participating in or supporting the Cardboard Boat Race can be obtained online at or by calling 770-386-1677. There also are vendor opportunities, and nonprofits can promote their organizations free of charge.