LUMBERTON — The Lumber River turned all colors of the rainbow on Saturday when more than 400 plastic ducks were dumped into the water to raise money for the Robeson County Boys and Girls Club.
A crowd of about 100 people lined the riverbank at Stephens Park, many of them having paid $25 a duck to be eligible to win up to $2,000 in cash, to cheer the ducks along the 100 yards from the start of the race to its finish.
The race, which began at noon, ended within 10 minutes, with duck number 452 riding the current to the finish line first.
Danny Freeman, who would have won $2,000 if present at the race, had to settle for $1,000 for not being in attendance. Freeman apparently didn’t mind, however; when contacted immediately and told that his duck had won, he said that he is donating his $1,000 prize back to the Boys and Girls Club.
Saturday’s event, the 12th annual Duck Race, had more than 400 entries and will net the boys and Girls Club more than $10,000, according to Ron Ross, the club’s executive director. Last year the event raised more than $8,000.
Ross said the Duck Race is currently the club’s major annual fundraiser. He said he originally got the idea for holding this event after looking on the Internet at what other organizations were doing to raise money.
“When I saw others doing this, it came to me this is something we should try,” he said.
Ross said that the annual race gets great support from the community. Last year, the winning duck belonged to Lumberton City Councilman Robert Jones, who was in attendance and collected the $2,000 prize.
“I’m excited about this,” Ross said. “This event brings in the money that supports about 10 percent of our budget and we need all of the funds we can get.”
Ross said the club gets money needed to support its programs from the United Way, grants, contributions and special events such as the Duck Race. The club’s budget, which at one time was $300,000 a year, is now $170,000, he said.
Prize money for for year’s race was donated by Coltrane and Associates and Farm Bureau of Lumberton.
In addition to the race, those at Saturday’s event were treated to free hot dogs and drinks, as well as the chance to win several door prizes. Music was provided by the Carolina Breakers, a shag and beach band.
Hot dogs were served by members of Mid-Atlantic Aero Group EAA Chapter 1487, based in Lumberton. According to the group’s president, Dick Perkins, his organization provided airplane flights two years ago for several of the young people who are members of the Boys and Girls Club.
Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill’s duck didn’t win the race, but he did win two free dinners at Cracker Barrel in the raffle drawings.
“I have an entry in the race every year,” McNeill said. “This is for a good cause. Ron does a good job working hard with the club to help at risk kids. We (Lumberton police) support all of the club’s activities.”
Hope Brayboy said she always comes out to the race. She said she is a past Duck Race winner, having won the race about a decade ago.
“My children are teenagers now, but when they were in the club I used to come to the race. I have just continued,” said Brayboy. “I enjoy the event and all of the socializing.”
Ross said that the funds raised from the event will help keep the club’s membership cost at a level almost everyone can afford.
“We are the only Boys and Girls Club in America that only charges $1 a year for membership,” he said. “And there are 4,700 clubs in America.”