In the heavy afternoon sun, a large wooden bed on wheels, elaborately built to resemble a sailboat, came barreling around a corner at Cumming Elementary,
Emblazoned with the words “Usain Boat” and pushed through a course littered with orange cones by teens wearing sailor outfits, the boat finally hit the last stretch, crossing the finish line to scattered applause from the watching crowd. Close on its heels, a school bus, a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office patrol car, and a groovy tie-dyed pink and purple bed with a disco ball as a “hood ornament” followed carrying their own bed and team, all focused on winning the day.
But this strange procession wasn’t any type of parade, only the focal point of the yearly Family Promise Bed Race and Festival, where the people of Forsyth County gather to see local groups and organizations race zany “beds” to raise money for families in need.
"It went really, really well,” said Tina Huck, Executive Director of Family Promise of Forsyth County after the race. “We were able to meet our goals, financially as well as just getting out in the community, meeting new people and letting people know we are here for them if they need us and how they can get involved.
"We were pretty excited all around with how it turned out."
Huck said that the bed race has become instrumental in raising thousands of dollars for Family Promise and allowing them to meet with the community in a day of family fun.
"Last year, and really more this year, we built it into more of a family festival," Huck said. "The bed race itself is kind of a signature event for Family Promise throughout the country, but because we are so community-focused we wanted to bring the festival aspect in too."
In addition to the bed races themselves, the event featured entertainment from local dance troops, food, games, bouncy castles and a number of different local vendors.
For the races themselves, Huck said that they had seven teams of racers from Christ the King Lutheran Church, Cumming Elementary, Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Family Promise of Forsyth County Board of Directors, the Forsyth County School Social Workers and Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church.
Deputy Kevin Ferraro of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office piloted the patrol car bed in the race. He said that they have been a part of the event for the past few years, normally facing off against the Forsyth County Fire Department for a special award specifically for their rivalry.
"We beat them last year, and we're going to do it again," Ferraro said good-naturedly before the race.
Unfortunately in the end, the Fire Department couldn’t make it to the race, but Ferraro said that event is still an important one for the local community.
"This program is fantastic, serving the families of Forsyth County who need a helping hand. Instead of a handout, they are getting a step up," Ferraro said. "So I love promoting and helping Family Promise as much as I can."
Huck said that at the end of the day, they ended up raising more than $10,000 for their programs, an amount that will help their clients more than the public realizes.
Huck said that beyond the money, the day was invaluable because it connected volunteers, the public, organizations and partner congregations all together in one place.
"It brings the community together to support the families of our community who need our program,” Huck said. “And it gets the word out there about our program, so that families who are in need know that we are here for them."