Join in the wacky races

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Fancy yourself as a real life Dastardly from the cartoon classic Wacky Races? Or better still, his sniggering dog henchman Muttley? Then it might be time for you to look out for ideas for a lean mean fighting machine.

In a few weeks’ time teams of friends, schoolchildren and aspiring cartoon villains (and heroes) will be battling it out at Creggan Country Park where their grand Charity Raft Race takes place on Saturday April 30. And there are rumours that there may even be some hen parties.

And you won’t be like the nasty (though lovable) characters in the Hanna-Barbera animated television series. Unlike Wacky Races where all the stars are villains, taking part in this unusual challenge might even make you a hero, as you will be helping a worthy cause.

The proceeds of the raft race will go to Chernobyl Children International which was founded by Adi Roche in 1991 to help victims of the Chernobyl disaster. This year is particularly poignant as it is the 25th anniversary of the disaster at the nuclear power plant in what is now the Ukraine.

Founded in 1991, the charity has made a real difference to the lives of tens of thousands of children. Their Rest and Recuperation Programme has brought more than 21,000 children to Ireland alone, returning an average of two years to each child’s lifespan.

Environmental Officer at Creggan Country Park Karen Healy said: ‘There are at least 20 host families in Derry who are involved, and more in Inishowen. We are hoping that some of them will be able to come to the event. Every year these families take in children affected by the Chernobyl disaster as part of the charity’s Rest and Recuperation Programme. This adds years to the children’s lives.’

Karen is very excited about the race. ‘I’m going to be refereeing the event out on a boat. There was a raft race here a few years ago, but this will be my first. I don’t know what to expect. I know there are going to be lots of people in fancy dress. There have been clowns in the past, and people wearing sailor outfits. So you never know, I might even get dressed up myself. I’m planning to enjoy the day and have a bit of craic.’

And if you’ve never built a raft before, no sweat. Experts at Creggan Country Park will literally be showing you the ropes.

‘People don’t need to worry about bringing any special equipment,’ said Karen. ‘We provide all the main frame materials to make the rafts. That includes barrels and planks of wood to help your raft float and ropes. And instructors will be there to give people a helping hand.’

There is however one thing that participants can bring. ‘People can bring any stuff they want to decorate the rafts. They can bring flags for example. Or they might want to give the raft a theme. I’ve heard about someone who designed a raft that looked like a magic carpet. And another one was inspired by Avatar,’ said Karen. ‘We’ve even had people dressed up as Pudsey Bear. Poor Pudsey, he’s scary, but he’s so cute,’ she laughed. ‘In terms of fancy dress, I think anything goes.’

In order to take part in the wacky raft race, teams must be registered by Wednesday April 20. The teams need to raise £120 in total in order to participate. ‘We’re expecting teams to be from four to six people, with a maximum of six,’ said Karen. ‘That would mean they could either raise £20 each, or for example if someone put in say £60, the other members of the team would only have to pay just over a tenner each. And everyone is welcome to come along and watch. You don’t have to be in the raft race to support the event.’

‘We’ll be providing refreshments after the race is over,’ she said. This is probably a good idea in case anyone eats too many buns and then sinks...

The Charity Raft Race takes place at Creggan Country Park on Saturday April 30 at 1pm. All teams must be registered by Wednesday April 20.To register your team contact Creggan Country Park on (028) 71363 133 or email