Advocates for Children gears up for Saturday's Duck Derby

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With the Duck Derby nearing its 16th offering, Advocates for Children's administrative office is bustling with activity.

Along with preparing for Saturday's benefit, organizers also are recruiting supporters to participate in the Duck Derby Labeling Day. Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, the labeling endeavor will be underway at Terminus Wake Park — 171 LakePoint Parkway in Cartersville — until the project is finished or 3 p.m.

"We have asked for 100 volunteers to help us get the ducks ready on Friday," Duck Derby Committee Chairperson Nicole Hughes said. "The task of removing old labels and putting on new ones is easy work, but with 20,000 ducks to label it is a big undertaking that cannot be accomplished without help from volunteers.

"The Duck Derby fundraiser event relies heavily on community support in many different ways — purchasing a duck package, selling ducks as part of a team, serving as a volunteer to help with labeling and simply coming out to enjoy the event. I love the Duck Derby because it allows everyone in the community to participate in one way or another. When we can all rally together to better the lives of children and families in our community, it is a win-win for everyone involved."

Established in the early 2000s, the Duck Derby has broadened its reach through the years, resulting in various changes in venue.

"This will be the 16th year Advocate’s for Children has hosted the Duck Derby event — happy sweet 16th birthday to Quacky Duck," said Melissa Warren, Advocates' events manager. "The first race took place in Euharlee Creek with much fewer ducks, but it wasn’t long before we needed a bigger space for all of those ducks to kick and paddle their way to the finish line.

"After leaving Euharlee, the race went down the Etowah River for many years before moving to Terminus Wake Park in 2015. The Duck Derby event is the organization’s largest event in terms of guests and community participation. The funding from this event is absolutely vital to the overall health of our programs."

Following the Duck Dash 5K and Fun Run at 8 a.m., the Duck Derby will be ongoing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Terminus Wake Park. Along with inflatables, carnival games and food trucks, the event will feature a main duck race at noon and the Very Important Duck race will immediately precede it.

"In addition to the $10,000 grand prize sponsored by Kennesaw Transportation Inc., we are offering prizes for other ducks pulled from the waters," Hughes said about the noon race. "They include wakeboarding gear, a [Big] Green Egg provided by 1st Georgia Home Mortgage, a Downtown Cartersville basket full of gift cards or items from downtown merchants and restaurants, a Chick-fil-A picnic basket bundle, a Henry’s Louisiana Grill gift basket, Atlanta United tickets, a tanning package from Southern Exposure Tanning Salon and a massage from LaVida Massage. The very last duck pulled from the water will win a one-year gym membership with three personal training sessions to Real Life Fitness and a $50 gift card to Play It Again Sports."

Formed in 1983, Advocates for Children assists more than 3,000 area youth and families each year. Along with operating Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, the organization provides numerous programs that aid in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse.

"Advocates for Children has seven different programs focused on the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect," Warren said. "Children are the future of our community, and it is important to make sure they receive the love and support they deserve to help them live a happy, healthy life. We believe that is a cause everyone can and should support.

"We typically raise more than $100,000 through Duck Derby. This year, we hope to sell at least 20,000 ducks. Our annual budget is just over $2 million, with our funding coming from a combination of sources, including corporate partnerships, individual donors, fundraising events and government grants and contracts. Our fundraising events, and the local support that comes from them, help fill the gaps left from other sources and are vital to our organization."

While supplies last, the yellow rubber ducks can be “adopted” at adoption sites across the community, online at www.duckrace.com/Cartersville and at the event. Prices run from $5 for one duck to $250 for a VID package, consisting of 50 ducks and one entry into the VID race.

"We’re nearing 50 percent of our overall duck goal, which is concerning considering the event is just a few days away," Warren said. "This will be my second year working this event as a staff member, and it seems normal to have a surge of last minute purchases. However, we’ve not seen them yet this year.

"Each duck purchased represents something much bigger. It's the feeling of hope and comfort provided to children and families right here in Bartow County. Our fundraiser events help fill in the gaps left behind from state and federal funding. In order for Advocates for Children to be able to continue our work in the community — responding readily to children and families in crisis; providing parenting education to at-risk families; advocating for a safe and permanent home for children in foster care; providing grief support to help children heal from painful family transitions; and giving abused, neglected and runaway youth a safe place to sleep at night — we have to have the community’s support to help meet our duck goals."

For more information about Advocates, visit http://advochild.org or call the nonprofit at 770-387-1143.