The 17th annual Rubber Ducky Derby is set to happen at Oak Hill Park in Danville in a couple of weeks to benefit Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland. Each duck costs $10 and will be placed into the pond alongside the live ducks for the derby.
"We want to bring awareness of Children's Hospital. We want people of Contra Costa County to know about the great resource of Children's Hospital." explained Kristina Smith, a seven-year member of the Rowan Branch, which raises money for Children's Hospital. The hospital saved the life of her infant son.
The event is being held in Danville for the first time, thanks to the Rowan Branch, which took over the derby this year. Its members mostly live in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
Its goal is to raise $150,000 and have at least 15,000 rubber ducks in the pond. Ten ducks will be randomly picked out of the water, with the first one's "owners" winning the grand prize, four tickets from Southwest Airlines to anywhere it flies.
This year's derby will have family carnival rides, face-painting and live singing for the kids.
"It's going to be a friendly, fun, family day," described Belinda George, a Rowan Branch member for 12 years. (See sidebar)
The hospital is in need of more money than ever because of earthquake retrofits mandated by the state of California to be done by 2013. Children's Hospital also plans to open an additional medical facility in Walnut Creek in early 2009.
The event is getting some help from two Danville moms known as the Pool Chicks - Stacy Gilbert and Diane Davis.
Their pool-cleaning company will match the $10 donation of anyone who buys a duck through them; they hope to sell 500.
"With our business it's a good way to help the community. With our name we'll be able to raise money for the hospital," said Davis.
The women started the Pool Chicks after being fed up with contracted pool cleaning help, they said. Davis said her pool was always green, the pool service would hardly show up, and she felt she was putting money into the pool but never getting results.
Gilbert and Davis both needed to find work at the same time and the pool cleaning business seemed to be a good fit. The friends went to school and became certified by the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
They launched their business and cleaned pools throughout last winter.
"The customers were happy and we knew the children would soon be swimming and splashing away their summer months," Gilbert said.
Now with their business going well, the Pool Chicks says they want to give back to the community.
"With our main emphasis in the well-being of children … and in awe of the amazing work, research and community support that Children's Hospital provides, we decided to help fundraise and contribute to the Rubber Duck Derby Race," said Gilbert.
The Pool Chicks will have a table at the Fourth of July parade with support from Auto Care of Danville to sell rubber ducks.
Also, volunteers will be washing the duckies and sticking the numbers on at a pre-event from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday, July 8, at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. This is an opportunity for people to donate their $10 for a chance to win the grand prize.
Research and more
Belinda George originally joined Rowan Branch to meet new people and to feel that she would be working for a good cause. When her granddaughter, Katie Nues, now 6, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, her volunteer work took on a whole new meaning.
Rett syndrome causes a mutation in one of the X chromosomes that causes children to move backwards in their development. When Katie's case was recognized, at 17 months, there was no care for girls in California with the syndrome, forcing the family to look to other states for treatment.
Since that time, $50,000 has been raised and a doctor from Children's Hospital has helped start Katie's Clinic at the Oakland site to help other girls who have the disease.
Since Katie cannot talk, the team of Katie's Clinic helps identify and treat her health problems. These include seizures, poor weight gain, not being able to walk or use her hands, and problems swallowing.
The team also helps prevent issues she may face such as scoliosis and muscle contractures. And they assess her learning goals and work with Katie's school district.
This has been a great help to the family, explained Katie's mother, Paige Nues. The clinic gives the family hope about Katie's future.
Also Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland is involved in trying to find a cure for Rett syndrome.
Buy a duck, help a child
What: Rubber Ducky Derby
Who: Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland
When: 2-5 p.m., Sunday, July 13
Where: Oak Hill Park in Danville
Buy a duck: www.rubberduckyderby.org