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Duck derby to raise funds for cancer society

July 16, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - It may seem a little silly to dump 1,600 little yellow rubber ducks into a stream and cheer them on as they bob their way through a quarter-mile of riffles and rapids to a historical wooden covered bridge.

There's nothing funny about why it's being done.

The Franklin County Unit of the American Cancer Society, a sponsor of the Ninth Annual Duck Derby Race, hopes to raise $9,500 at the Aug. 9 event on the Conococheague Creek at Martin's Mill Covered Bridge.

The derby marks one of the final events of the nine-day Old Home Week celebration, Greencastle's triennial event being held for the 33rd time.

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"We always do better in Old Home Week," said Cathy Rodgers, cancer society spokeswoman in Chambersburg, Pa. "There's always more people out then."

"Charities all over the country have rubber duck races for fund-raisers, but we're one of the few cancer societies in Pennsylvania that still do them," Rodgers said.

Mary Zeger, a cancer society volunteer since she first knocked on doors in a 1973 fund-raiser, has worked on all of the duck races.

"It was a charity that I wanted to devote my time to. I never thought I'd get cancer myself," she said. Zeger, 74, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987.

Her job at the races is to sell ducks. Accompanied by a child in a duck suit, Zeger walks among the crowd at the launching point a quarter-mile above the bridge and sells the little yellow competitors.

The society sells the numbered ducks for $5 each. The first 29 to cross the finish line under the bridge win. The owner of the first duck to cross wins $500. Most of the other prizes are gift certificates from area businesses. Winners don't have to be present.

Buyers get a souvenir duck, not a numbered one. Souvenir ducks wear white hats.

The racing ducks are dumped unceremoniously into the stream at the sound of a starting pistol. Boy Scouts and volunteers wait at the bridge, grab the winners as they cross the finish line and shout out the numbers.

Duck race T-shirts are available for $8 to $10, depending on size.

A new design is chosen for each Old Home Week celebration. This year a smiling yellow rubber duck stands in front of a checkered flag. Its right arm cradles the covered bridge and its left hand holds a blue ribbon.

The design was drawn by Micah Oberholzer, a Greencastle-Antrim High School art student. It was the winner in a school competition, Rodgers said.

Ducks are for sale at all McDonald's restaurants in Franklin County, she said.

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