Riverfest entry aims at awareness

Published 10:03 pm Saturday, August 7, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - While most participants rent their rafts for Riverfest's "Anything That Floats" raft race, Niles resident Joy Nekvasil decided to get a little creative and make a point in the process.
She and her husband Scott Mulvihill will be entering this year's event for the first time with their canoe, titled "You are not Forgotten."
It is Nekvasil's hope that her decorative canoe will bring attention to two very different groups that often get forgotten - prisoners of war and the homeless.
As a veteran of U.S. Army Special Forces, her thoughts are always with those fighting for our country in the military. And with the war in Iraq going on, she thinks it is a good opportunity to remind people of the dangerous work our troops are currently performing.
As a basis for her canoe, Nekvasil decided to implement the specific theme of remembering our country's prisoners of war and those missing in action.
She coupled the military aspect of her canoe with another group that is often overlooked – the homeless. As a good deed, she and her husband decided to donate their large collection of stuffed animals to the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Ind.
For years, the couple has been exchanging stuffed animals as gifts - each one with a special meaning.
As time has passed, their collection continued to grow until it got to the point that they just had too many.
But, because each animal had a sentimental value, the couple did not just want to get rid of them.
So, they chose to donate about 30 stuffed animals, made up of all shapes, sizes and species, to the homeless center.
With POW/MIA banners on the sides, flags on the front and back and a pile of the stuffed animals in the middle, their canoe is one of only a handful of homemade entries to enter this year's event.
Though this is the couple's first year in the raft race, it is not their first year participating in a Riverfest event.
A couple of years ago, she and her husband had a blast as part of the first place Innovative Products' Dragon Boat team. Nekvasil thinks Riverfest is the perfect example of what makes Niles so special.
This year, she decided to use one of Niles' fun events as an outlet to make a point that is close to her heart.