(WBIR - Knoxville) Thousands of people gathered at The Cove at Concord Park Saturday to race through the water in dragon boats for the 12th Annual KARM (Knox Area Rescue Ministries) Dragon Boat Festival.
Although storms forced the event to wrap up early, everyone involved had fun raising money for a good cause.
The fundraiser usually generates about $250,000, according to KARM's President and CEO Burt Rosen, as paddlers commit to raise pledges to support the many life-saving programs KARM offers.
In addition to the participants, many volunteers also showed up Saturday to help make the event a huge success.
Doug Sharp has been volunteering with KARM for the past 11 years and has worked just about every Dragon Boat Festival.
"I think I've done all of them except for maybe the first one," Sharp said.
Sharp, who now lives in Oneonta, AL, explained, " Fifteen years ago I had moved back to Knoxville and didn't really have anywhere to live at the time so I had a travel trailer and I lived in the travel trailer north of Knoxville. And I got to thinking, even though I was living in a travel trailer there was a lot of people who have it much worse than I did. So I decided I would volunteer somewhere."
Even though Sharp has been living in Alabama for the past six years, he faithfully returns to Knoxville each year to volunteer for the Dragon Boat Festival.
"I feel like that's something I can do to help," Sharp said.
Rosen said, "When you think about the roots that places in someone's life and the fact that they would give up the time to come away from home to be a part of this not only speaks to the fun the event is, but it speaks to how deeply committed to what we do every day and to the folks we serve."
Rosen explained KARM provides shelter for up to 500 people on any given night and feeds about 1,200 people daily. The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the rescue organization's biggest fundraisers.
If you would like more information on how to volunteer or donate to KARM, visit http://karm.org/.