Quack attack

Ducks to rock Rocketts Aug. 11
If you’re still reeling from the region’s crazy weather extremes of the last month, better brace yourself for next week’s forecast.

On Aug. 11, Rocketts Landing will be raining ducks.

As many as 20,000 rubber ducks, in fact, will splash into the James River at the 23rd Annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Duck Race, courtesy of thousands of citizen and corporate donors who support the mentoring work of BBBS.

The owner of the lucky duck – the swift swimmer who leads the flock from the old Annabelle Lee dock starting gate to The Boathouse finish line – will take home a new Nissan Versa donated by Priority Nissan.

Among other prizes will be the chance to play Honorary Squirrel for a Day with the Richmond Flying Squirrels; outings to Busch Gardens, Dave & Busters, and Richmond International Raceway; a kayak donated by Dick’s Sporting Goods; and a burrito a week for a year at Qdoba.

Proceeds from duck sales, as always, will support BBBS programs pairing children with adult mentors in their community, which includes not only Richmond and its suburban counties but also Colonial Heights and the Tri-Cities area.

As Mark Bowen, manager of marketing and corporate relations for BBBS, pointed out recently, “We offer our [matching and mentoring services] free to the family; it doesn’t cost them a cent. But it’s not a free service to supply.”

Receiving only limited funding from government sources – such as a federal grant that helps with mentoring of military families at Ft. Lee – the growing organization relies heavily on the Duck Race, the largest of its four annual fundraisers.

Bowen, who has been making the rounds of local grocery stores and businesses to sell ducks, noted that the one-on-one relationships fostered by BBBS have been shown to lower the chances of truancy and drug use by almost half among participating children.

“So we are always looking for numbers, for more matches; but we also want quality over quantity,” Bowen said, emphasizing that long-term stability in a mentoring relationship is the ideal. “We try to keep matches together as long as we can; that makes the bigger difference in a child’s life and the bigger difference in the community overall.”

The new venue for the race and family festival, which in past years took place at Brown’s Island, represents just one of several changes that have come about as BBBS marks its 50th anniversary year in Richmond.
Thousands of these rubber ducks (pictured at a previous race at Belle Ise) will flood the James River at Rocketts Landing Aug. 11 in a charity race to benefit the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

The start time of the festival, which used to be 11 a.m., has been moved back until 2 p.m. (with a duck drop time of 5 p.m.) to take advantage of cooler temperatures. The Duck Race’s social media presence has also been stepped up, with Facebook ads allowing fans to “like” the race, and Twitter updates regarding duck sales issued several times a day.

What’s more, said Bowen, BBBS is offering online duck sales for the first time ever -- and web purchases are increasing daily.

“You can go directly from the Facebook page [or BBBS home page] to buy ducks,” said Bowen, indicating that not only do online sales represent a convenience for duck buyers, but also a time saver for the staff.

With any luck, said Bowen, the internet will one day replace “retail” sites as the primary source of duck sales -- freeing staff from fundraising tasks to focus on their matching and mentoring mission.

But until then, Bowen can be found roaming the Richmond region, working up to six corporate duck sales a day. Among the Henrico businesses that have hosted sales in recent weeks are Snagajob, Richmond International Raceway, Markel, Dominion Power in Innsbrook and Quaker Steak and Lube, he said.

One of the Henrico trips Bowen relishes most, however, is set to take place August 3 at Genworth Financial – where he says he can always count on a duck-buying frenzy.

“At Genworth,” Bowen said confidently, “we’ll sell five- to six-hundred ducks in two hours.”

The 2012 Duck Race festival will take place Aug. 11 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Rocketts Landing, with the duck drop taking place at 5 p.m. To purchase ducks, or to volunteer at the Duck Race, visit http://tinyurl.com/cfkutx7 or call 261-4940.
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