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Rain couldn't keep the ducks away at Boys & Girls Clubs' 2019 Rubber Duck Derby
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Rubber ducks are dumped into the lake during the Rubber Duck Derby at Clarks Bridge Park on Saturday, May 11, 2019. The event is put on by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier with the first rubber duck across the finish winning its owner $10,000. - photo by Austin Steele

Even though the majority of the events with the 21st Rubber Duck Derby were canceled due to rain, the race at the lake of Clark’s Bridge Park was salvaged on Saturday, May 11 to put a positive ending on things.

The Rubber Duck Derby is an annual fundraising event supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, a local youth development organization focusing on helping children with academic success, encouraging them to serve the community, and adopting healthy lifestyles. The organization serves more than 6,000 kids in the Hall County area, and it uses the Rubber Duck Derby both as a charity for the group, and as a chance for public outreach.

According to Director of Development & Communications Regina Gore, while the fundraising is important, the loss of face time with the community wasn’t an easy loss for members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier.

“Having the family fun part of it is so dear to us because we get a chance to make sure that we connect with the community and keep our name out there,” Gore said. “So it’s very sad for us to have to cancel that.”

Gore said that several local businesses, including Tap It, Kona Ice and Hog Dog Ninja were set to attend, all culminating in a live performance by Atlanta-based band Fly Betty Band that night. All of these moving parts make Rubber Duck Derby hard to postpone, as plans are made as early as a year ahead of time.

“It’s not a duplicatable event,” Gore said. “I don’t want to put us in the same category as the Boston Marathon, but they don't have a postpone date for that either, you know? Once you head outside and do the very best that you can. We want to make sure that everybody’s safe and comfortable, and then you make the decision when you make the decision and do your very best to get ahold of everybody and make sure that nobody packs up their truck or puts 100 pounds of barbecue to smoke when they know they’re not gonna use it.”

In the race, over 20,000 rubber ducks were dropped into Lake Lanier, each labeled with a number corresponding to donors who pay $6 per duck. The funds went to support Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, while the owners of the first ten ducks to reach the finish line will win prizes such as a one-carat diamond donated by Gainesville Jewelry or free Chick-fil-A for a year for two, with the grand prize being $10,000, which went to Antwanne Jackson.

The race drew volunteers and workers from across Hall County, including Tom Child, owner of Marine Specialties, who has supplied the barge used to release the ducks into the lake since Rubber Duck Derby’s inception.

“We’ve come a long way,” Child said. “I’ve been doing it since the beginning. I tell them every year you can count on me.”

Jerome Yarbrough, the fire chief of the City of Gainesville, as well as a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, helped in coordinating the transfer of the rubber ducks throughout the event. Yarbrough expressed a pointed interest in the funds the Rubber Duck Derby and the programs it will help keep afloat, having been part of the club as a child.

“It means a lot to me,” Yarborough said. “I was a Club kid, so I benefited from the same type of programs and it just keeps the kids focused and leads them in the right way, you know? We’ve got a lot of kids that’s disadvantaged and just need help and just needs somebody to reach out and show them a better way. So it means a lot to me to get out here and pretty much raise awareness to Boys & Girls Club. And it gives somebody a chance to win a good prize and help them out. But the long term is we get to do a lot of programming and keep these kids on the right path to being successful in Hall County.”