Duck, duck, goal!

Duck race brings in $23,000 for cancer

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"They're coming!"

Children lining the Yampa River jubilantly cried out the words as they caught sight of the first of more than 2,300 rubber duckies bobbing toward the finish line Saturday during the 17th annual Rubber Ducky Race.

Ducky No. 446 got there first and was named the official winner of the event, organized by Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary members to raise funds for a new chemotherapy and infusion center at the hospital.

Residents, tourists and businesses purchased the duckies for $10 each, raising more than $23,000 -- a record in Rubber Ducky Race history, auxiliary co-chairwoman Jean Coen said.

The fun began when organizers dumped trash bins loaded with the bright yellow duckies into the river from the Fifth Street Bridge. Parents and children egged on the slower duckies with hockey sticks, rakes and ski poles while walking toward the

finish line at the 13th Street Bridge.

"It's a great community event," Jane Dickinson said as she waited under the bridge with her two children. "It gets everybody out, and kids love it."

It was the first ducky race for Genny Nicol of Dallas, who enjoyed watching children's gleeful reactions as the first clusters of duckies bounced by.

"This is a lot of fun," she said. "It's really a good cause."

Prizes donated from area businesses awaited those who purchased the first 60 duckies scooped up with fishing nets at the finish line. The top 10 prizes included the grand prize, a season ski pass for the Steamboat Ski Area, as well as memberships to the Steamboat Ski Touring Center and Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center and a round of golf at the Catamount Ranch & Club golf course.

Each year, the auxiliary donates race funds for equipment or improvement to some part of YVMC. In the past, funds have gone toward new decor at the Doak Walker Care Center, as well as a chapel in the hospital, YVMC spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said.

The auxiliary plans to contribute funds raised from the races this year and next year to building a larger, more comfortable space for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and infusion treatments.

"Chemotherapy is a very important service to us," McKelvie said. "It's something this race has raised awareness of."

The center, which started in 1990 with about 20 patients, accommodates more than 100 patients who don't have to drive to Denver or Vail for their treatments, Coen and co-chairwoman Marijo Moran said.

Coen attributed the boost in participants at this year's ducky race to its focus on cancer treatment, a cause affecting many people.

"Upgrades to the cancer center are important to a lot of people," she said.

The $10 ducky price hasn't changed since 1987, when the race was first organized by Jan Vail and Anne Severson, co-chairwomen of what was then the Routt Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Vail and Severson got the idea for the race from a similar event held by the Kiwanis Club of Durango. The auxiliary sold 500 ducks for its first race, Vail said.

"I never thought it would last this long," she said.

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