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A Valdosta YMCA lifeguard keeps an eye on Team Azalea Health as members clean a section of the pool Friday during the Greater Valdosta United Way Day of Caring.

In a hotly contested race between 15 Valdosta organizations, the team donning giraffe antlers, Team Toys R Us, unseated last year’s champions, ClientTell, and took first place in the United Way’s “Amazing Race”-style competition at 11:23 a.m. Friday at the YMCA.

Each team had to complete a task at a charitable organization around town, before they could move on to the next stop and ultimately reach the finish line at the YMCA.

Jim McCambridge of Team Toys R Us said the group scouted each of the agencies included along the course before the race began, a strategy that propelled Team ClientTell to victory last year.

“We work together as a team every day at work, so we already knew our strong points,” said McCambridge. “They kept trying to hold us up at each stop.”

McCambridge said the oddest task was “Jacob’s Ladder” at Wiregrass Technical College. He said the team had to balance themselves on a teeter-totter and distribute their weight equally, while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Azalea Health, Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lowndes County Board of Commissioners followed Team Toys R Us to round out the top five.

First State Bank, Southern OB/GYN, Dillards, Southeastern Federal Credit Union, the Junior Service League, Publix super markets, Lowndes County DFCS, Citizens Community Bank, ClientTell, The Valdosta Daily Times, Henderson & Godbee, Moody AFB, Ameris Bank, Smith Drugs, Commercial Bank, CJB Industries and Georgia Power also participated in the United Way’s Day of Caring.

But not all Day of Caring participants focused their efforts on the race. There were several “stationary” teams that dedicated their mornings to helping a single organization, such as Team Publix which focused its efforts on Second Harvest of South Georgia.

“We packaged 1,200 relief boxes during our four hours at the food bank,” said Rebecca Daniels of Team Publix. “However, Second Harvest needs 4,000 relief boxes before the holiday season. So there’s more work to be done.”

As teams checked in, they voted on which agency they considered their favorite stop during the race.

The Salvation Army received the most votes and was awarded a $5,000 donation.

“We really do appreciate what you pledge to give,” said United Way Executive Director Bobby Yarbrough as he addressed the teams at the finish line. “Last year, over 60,000 people received the things they needed because of you and your efforts.”

Some teams appeared winded, while others looked as if they were hoping for a few more stops so they would have a chance to make a comeback. But all teams seemed happy with simply participating in the massive volunteer effort and learning about charitable organizations in the area.

“I didn’t know that a lot of these resources were here,” said Linda Heller of Team Toys R Us. “We now know where to donate toys for Christmas.”

The United Way’s Day of Caring transitions to another fundraising event, as the group holds an Adult Prom on Saturday night in the Loft at City Market. Five homecoming kings and five queens have been selected, and the pair raising the most money for the fundraiser will be crowned king and queen.

For more information on the adult prom or volunteering, contact the United Way by phone, (229) 242-2208; or online at UnitedWayValdosta.org.

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