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Ducks float downstream for fun, funds and a good cause in Pa.

August 15, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Ever wonder where those yellow rubber duckies live when they're not floating down the stream raising money for the American Cancer Society?

Are those the same ducks we're seeing every year or does a new batch "hatch" each time?

Mercersburg, Pa., residents Melissa Phillips and Fonda Ardinger know. The sisters have 3,000 rubber ducks stored in barrels in their basement. The same ones are used over and over, but they wear out, Ardinger said. "They have to be checked for 'floatability' each time," and the unusable ones sorted out.

Preparing the ducks who make the cut is a time-consuming task, Ardinger said, as each has to be individually tagged with a number. This year's duck sorters were her sons, Chris, 14, and Nick, 8, and 15-year-old twins Kerri and Kourtney Gray of Clear Spring. They spent a whole day in the basement checking and tagging the ducks.

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"I called (the operation) Duck Central," Ardinger said. "They had a system. It used to take us weeks."

About 1,500 of the cute creatures were let loose on the Conococheague Creek Sunday afternoon for the 16th annual Duck Derby. Supporters purchase a numbered duck for $5 for a chance to win a prize.

The owner of the first duck to cross the finish line, Tony McLaughlin of Chambersburg, Pa., won $500 donated by Susquehanna Bank.

Owners of the next 25 ducks received prizes from local merchants, including car detailing, gift certificates and a bicycle.

Another lucky duck was Joanna Baker of Chambersburg, who received $250 for owning the last duck to cross the finish line. The award was funded by the family of Ted Hazel, who died of cancer two years ago, Duck Derby Chairman Lon Bender said.

"He loved the Duck Derby," Bender said. "He always sold more ducks than anybody. He always felt bad for the last duck."

Despite 99-degree heat, lots of people turned out at the grounds of the Greencastle Sportsmen's Association to cheer on the ducks.

The race took less than 15 minutes.

Announcer Russ Clever said, "It's a fast race. The water is shallow, and they have short legs."

The derby is a family event, with free games for children, including a Bounce House.

"It's a way to get kids involved with a good group of positive adults," said Bender, adding that he plans to add a free petting zoo and pony rides next year.

The goal for the event was $10,000, and the group was a bit short of that at race time, Bender said. Much of the amount raised is used locally, while some goes to the national headquarters to help fund research.

Several members and leaders of Boy Scout Troop 99 of Greencastle, waded into the creek to assist race organizers by nudging the floating ducks away from the shoreline and freeing those hung up on long grass or sticks.

Three of the Scouts and one of their leaders had just finished a 20-mile, three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, Karen Horejs said. Her son Kevin Horejs, 12, arrived home just in time to go to the Duck Derby.

"They love it," she said. "They've been doing it for years."

Michael Martin, 2, watched the ducks float down the creek while standing on the bank with his parents, Stephen and Kelley Martin of Chambersburg.

Michael said he got candy from the piata and chose a duck.

"It's for a good cause," Kelley Martin said.

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