2012 Great Rotary Duck Race: The Real Winners

EUGENE, Ore. — It’s a Tuesday morning and Aimee Walsh and Stacy Habr Ochoa have their craft supplies spread out over a table in the middle of Direction Service’s office. Walsh gingerly molds a piece of white wire, making it resemble a flower. Habr Ochoa grips a pair of pliers, examining the joints of a tiny copper wire ducks.

The staff of Direction Service doesn’t usually spend the day doing crafts; their job is to help connect families of children with disabilities to the resources they need.

“Our agency is kind of a well-kept secret. If you aren’t a person who’s directly involved with us, you might not have heard of us,” said Walsh. “So our involvement with the Duck Race has been a huge awareness builder. People in the community now know who we are and what we do.”

The Great Rotary Duck Race has had that impact on more than two dozen non-profits in its 25 years. This year, organizers invited all of them to a reunion of sorts — with some incentive: build a duck. The best one will win $2,000; the rest will be auctioned off with the money going back to the agency that created it.

“It’s a very cool reunion idea,” Walsh said. “I’m very excited about 25 years and at least 15 agencies coming together to celebrate what the Duck Race has meant for them.”

For the Heart Gallery of Lane County, the Duck Race means success.

“I don’t know what we would have done without it,” said Christy Obie-Barrett, the group’s president. “It really was a blessing.”

Just as the non-profit was coming together, money from the event helped secure its future.

“It was really critical to us,” Obie-Barrett said. “I attribute a lot of our early success to it because we got it two years in a row and it was during our second or third year. For us, that was a chunk of money that probably sustained us through the year.”

The Duck Race stuffed the Heart Gallery’s coffers twice, but it’s the glue that held the Relief Nursery together over the years.

“It’s a very critical part of keeping children safe in our community,” said Beth Sheehan, Relief Nursery board member and Rotarian.

When the Duck Race first started investing in the Nursery, the organization was pretty bare. But year after year, that money helped the non-profit take shape.

“The Relief Nursery has really impacted this community in terms of child abuse prevention and supporting families and keeping children safe,” Sheehan said.

Just like each of these agencies tackled the challenge of building a duck, they team up with the Duck Race to fight child abuse. The use different approaches and different tools, but their goal is the same.

Walsh said: “We’re seeing ending of generational violence and trauma, so I think it’s had a tremendous impact.”

You can check out the ducks created by the agencies on Tuesday, July 17 at the Great Rotary Duck Race community kickoff celebration. It’s at Valley River Inn and gets underway at 5:30 p.m.

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