Boats shoot across the starting line in last year’s race. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Boats shoot across the starting line in last year’s race. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Hydros for Heroes this weekend

When Hydros for Heroes debuted three years ago, its organizers began their pledge to celebrate those who serve the community and country.

The event, which is hosted by the Craig McKenzie Team Foundation and supported by the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor, honors local heroes such as the military, law enforcement, firefighters, teachers and health care professionals.

Hydros for Heroes, however, could be called Hydros for Heroes by Heroes.

While promoter/owner McKenzie and race director Jim Woessner deflect any talk of their heroics, their efforts — along with that of the Rotary Club and a slew of volunteers and sponsors — make this charity event one of the most successful in the area.

Heroes are honored, but they aren’t the only ones to benefit.

Hydros for Heroes raised just under $24,000 in 2016 and

$34,000 in 2017 for the Rotary’s charitable causes.

Last summer’s amount more than doubled the next best Rotary fundraiser.

“There is no doubt we can make this a $100,000 event,” McKenzie said.

Last spring, Rotary awarded $29,000 in scholarships to graduating Oak Harbor High School seniors.

“We’ll never know what positive impact the scholarships have on the students and their families,” Woessner said.

“I’m pretty proud of what we have done, what the Rotary has done,” McKenzie added.

Others have noticed the work McKenzie, Woessner and their group have provided and recognize the sincerity of their efforts.

Sponsors, donors and vendors are now calling McKenzie to be part of the program, he said. The racers eschew prize money, allowing their share to be part of the scholarship fund.

Media outlets cut their advertising fees to help the cause. The city, marina and naval base willingly lend a hand.

“The list goes on and on of those who want to help,” McKenzie said. “The community has really embraced this event.”

Hydros for Heroes is an offshoot of Homes for Heroes.

Through the program, the Craig McKenzie Team of Keller Williams Realty has helped military personnel save $616,000 in housing costs in the past two and a half years.

This year’s race, which is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association, is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16.

The dates were picked because of favorable tides, which will allow for a set schedule of 16 heats per day, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.

As of Friday, 41 boats were registered.

From 5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, Louie-G’s will host a dinner for the drivers and their families. The public is welcome to attend, eat, get autographs and check out the boats.

Saturday from 5-8:30 p.m., the C-Notes and Backyard Bison will provide entertainment. Several members of the latter band are flying in from college to donate their time to the cause.

In following the Hydros for Heroes theme, the organizers are pairing local military personnel with boats to be part of their pit crews.

Also, those in the military will be allowed to park their RVs along Pioneer Way, a prime viewing area, for free.

This year, for the first time, the public will be invited in the pit area for one hour each day to get a closer look at the mechanics of preparing a boat to race.

Derek Bollinger, injured in last year’s race, will return and serve as the public address announcer.

McKenzie acknowledged that putting on the race is time-consuming and occasionally overwhelming.

“We’ve had our trials and tribulations,” he said, “but we love doing it.”

Hydros skim around the corner in 2017.	(Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Hydros skim around the corner in 2017. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

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