In 2021, people started emerging after being indoors for a year due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Families and non-profits alike were able to open their doors and see their loved ones and supporters in person again.  Some came out full speed while others slowly tested the waters in a world that continued to practice social distancing and gather at the same time.  How could we fundraise in this new world in a manner that was sensitive to both styles of re-connecting?  

We decided that the fundraising event needed to be outside, needed to be fun and carefree, and something many of us have been craving this past year.  Then it came to us, “A race!” Races are perfect fundraisers, as we had learned over the years and in our most recent virtual 5K Walkathon.  As we slowly emerged from our COVID-19 bubbles, we wanted this race to be in person but also knew this would mean that runners and walkers would inevitably be bunched together. We needed a creative spin. We needed stand-ins for our runners and walkers while keeping them engaged in a fun event. Our racers were replaced by rubber ducks, fun and carefree stand-ins.  We only needed water for our ducks to swim the race. Island H2O Waterpark heard our call and offered their lazy river for the event. A duck race on the lazy river followed by a day at the waterpark. Yes, absolutely! 

It was a picture-perfect day, with blue sky, puffy white clouds, and bright sunshine.  This water race with a twist asked participants to register by purchasing their specific ducks, whether large, regular, or neon, to race down the river. Each duck was labelled with a number so that registrants could identify their ducks at the finish line. With generous donations from supporters and sponsors, there were prizes to be won by the fastest ducks.    It was the perfect weather to be at a waterpark and Pathways’ employees, sponsors, supporters, and participants arrived ready to race. News 6’s Emmy award winning Chief Meteorologist, Tom Sorrells, acted as race commentator and kept everyone excited and engaged. 
We set up a camera man in a raft to film the ducks on our Facebook live for attendees who could not be there in person. We dumped over 900 ducks into the river, with lifeguards holding them back at the start line until Tom announced 3…2…1…GO!  The race was on, and the ducks took off down the winding lane of the lazy river! Attendees walked along the side to urge their ducks on.  Others cheered the ducks on through our Facebook Live. During the race, Pathways’ President & CEO Dr. Sylisa Lambert-Woodard, spoke to local media outlets, explaining the importance of attending fundraisers like these to support homeless individuals in the community.  “The pandemic has exacerbated homelessness. Individuals who never thought they would be homeless find themselves without a home and those basic needs that they require, so it’s even more important for us to educate and advocate for one another,” Lambert-Woodard told Channel 6 news. 

At the end of this fun-filled race, we picked up the ducks that reached the finish line first and handed out the prizes to the lucky duck sponsors. Island H2O Waterpark topped it off by treating all attendees to 50% off their waterpark admission so they could continue their fun in the sun and water. It was a beautiful day of coming together to end homelessness while having fun together in a safe manner. 

The Duck Race raised over $16,000 that goes towards providing homes and supportive services to those in need. Thank you to all who supported the event and continue to support our work towards ending homelessness.  We are excited to host this amazing event again next year and look forward to seeing everyone out there! 

Thank You to our Sponsors!