Surprise! Unpark Yourself Prize Goes to Three

Instead of one winner, all three top finishers will get an ELF

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Casey Harrison, a nurse at Duke Hospital, snapped this selfie with family friends from her Durham neighborhood as they rode the Bull City Connector together during the Unpark Yourself Challenge. After tying for the competition's top spot, Harrison found out she would be one of three Duke community members to receive an ELF, the contest's grand prize. Photo courtesy of Casey Harrison.

The announcement was a surprise to attendees at Duke’s Sustainability Awards on April 15, but a bit more astonishing to Casey Harrison when she found out hours later.

Several days earlier, Harrison was in a three-way tie for first place in the Unpark Yourself Challenge and in the running to receive the grand prize: an ELF bike-hybrid vehicle. But neither she nor the other top finisher was selected in a random drawing to decide the tie.

However, in a surprise twist Wednesday, Harrison and Gabriel Yapuncich learned they too would join drawing winner and Nicholas School of the Environment graduate student Isaac Hacerola as proud, new owners of an ELF.

“I was randomly checking my email before bed because I had a really busy day, which is why I couldn’t be at the Sustainability Awards,” said Harrison, a nurse at Duke Hospital . “I got an email about the contest, but it didn’t say about what, so I looked up the Sustainability Awards story on Duke Today and saw the announcement. I said ‘Oh my goodness, this is amazing! This is unbelievable!’”

Immediately, Harrison, who gave up her parking permit during Unpark Yourself, called up coworkers from her Unpark Yourself team, The Swedish Walkers, who were working at Duke Hospital. She also made sure to call her mom.

By then it was midnight and “my mom busted out laughing,” she said.

In an unexpected announcement at the end of the Sustainability Awards on Wednesday, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask shared news that Duke would purchase two additional ELFs, recumbent bike-electric vehicles that use no gas, are road safe, travels up to 35 miles per hour and parks at a bike rack.

He noted it was a worthy way to highlight the commitment of all three top performers in Unpark Yourself since each earned a maximum 5,450 points.

“As an institution, Duke has taken on many projects to reduce our carbon footprint, but transportation is something that falls onto each of us to change,” Trask said. “The three top participants in this challenge showed such a strong commitment to being leaders in sustainability, we didn’t want that effort to go unrecognized.”

Graduate student Gabriel Yapuncich poses for a selfie by a rack of bikes with Duke's bike-share program, Zagster, as part of a social media activity for the Unpark Yourself Challenge. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Yapuncich.
Graduate student Gabriel Yapuncich poses for a selfie by a rack of bikes with Duke's bike-share program, Zagster, as part of a social media activity for the Unpark Yourself Challenge. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Yapuncich.

Like Harrison, Yapuncich, a Department of Evolutionary Anthropology graduate student, was in disbelief when he found out he’d receive an ELF.

“I haven’t been able to formally put it into words,” he said. “It’s thrilling and it’s totally unexpected. With a one-in-three chance to win, I thought I had pretty good odds at first and I gave myself the best shot I could, but I’m amazed at the generosity of Duke to give ELFs to all the winners.”

Yapuncich said the enclosed bike would come in handy this summer as he rides to campus to teach classes. He noted shade inside the vehicle will be better than exposure of a traditional bike and the help of an electric motor will make commuting more relaxed.

“I’ll be able to carry more stuff to campus instead going back-and-forth and using my backpack,” he said. “I can’t wait to drive it around and get more of these vehicles on the road.”