Jacksonville River Rally & Fun Run helps raise money for child burn victims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The St. Johns River will be a scene straight out of a "Miami Vice" episode Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

More than 100 boaters from around the country are expected to participate in the annual Jacksonville River Rally and Fun Run, which is a charity event benefiting child burn victims in North Florida.

The event, which was started in 2003 by a former Jacksonville firefighter, will feature $100,000 cigarette and catamaran speed boats taking part in a race down the river from downtown to Palatka and back.

News4Jax spoke with event organizers Greg Harris and boat racer Yvonne Aleman as boats were being docked at Metro Park and Marina.

PHOTOS: Boats docked for Jacksonville River Rally & Fun Run

“The event has been going on for 13 years here," Harris said. "It used to be larger, but it’s for a good cause -- Camp Amigo, which is a camp for burn children in North Florida.”

Harris comes from a family of firefighters who know what it's like to see children burned.

“I’ve talked to them when they’ve come from scenes of burned children and burned families that have had death," Harris said.

Kamiyah Richards, 19, is one of those children who went to Camp Amigo. She said she benefited from the camp after suffering third-degree burns to 70 percent of her body when she was 9 years old.

“When I first got burnt, I would always wear a jacket to cover my arms because I was too afraid to show them out in public," Richards said. "With me going to camp, it actually showed me that hey, it’s OK. We’re all burnt and we all went through the same thing, so it should not be something for me to be ashamed of.”

Richards has attended Camp Amigo ever summer for 10 years after feeling comfortable being around other child burn victims. She said she plans to return this summer as a counselor, and her experience at the camp has encouraged her to one day become a plastic surgeon.

Although it may look like the speedy boaters are racing each other along the river just for fun, it's all to help child burn victims attend a summer camp where they don't feel out of place.

“There’s a balance of the fun side of the event itself, and then there’s the other side, which is we are helping someone who really needs help and they need to benefit from our ability to contribute,” Aleman said.

According to the Burn Foundation, 250,000 children nationally are burned each year, as many as 15,000 are hospitalized with severe burns and 1,100 die from burns.

Boats are scheduled to leave the docks at 11 a.m. Saturday and by the time they get beyond the Main Street Bridge, it's full throttle all the way to Crystal Cove Marina in Palatka, some pushing well past 100 miles per hour down the river.

For more information on the event, visit the Jacksonville River Rally and Fun Run Facebook page.

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