Children help usher a flock of ducks downstream in the Yampa River at the 2009 Rubber Ducky Race in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Children help usher a flock of ducks downstream in the Yampa River at the 2009 Rubber Ducky Race in Steamboat Springs.

Monday Medical: Rubber Ducky Race celebrates 25th year

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The bright yellow ducks that will go floating down the Yampa River on Saturday morning will have a symbolic silver glow as the Rubber Ducky Race celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Jan Vail, whose extraordinary life and commitment to our community were celebrated last week, first proposed the idea for this fun, family-friendly fundraiser at a special meeting of Routt Memorial Hospital auxiliary leaders in 1988.

Her vision and the hard work of many volunteers throughout the years have greatly enhanced comfort and care at our previous hospital and our current Yampa Valley Medical Center.

“When you walk through the hospital, you can see that every area has benefited from this fundraiser,” Rubber Ducky Race co-chairperson Jaki Oakland said.

“From the Infusion/Chemotherapy Center to the blanket warmers in the Emergency Department to the beautiful chapel and family waiting rooms, Rubber Ducky Race proceeds have made life better for patients and employees of the hospital.”

Oakland said this year’s race proceeds will benefit YVMC Mammography, the Family Birth Place, Doak Walker Care Center and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, a community-based nonprofit organization.

The race succeeds because of the efforts of dedicated volunteers from the auxiliary, Kiwanis and Boy Scouts as well as support from community members and visitors. The price of “adopting” a numbered duck has not changed — it still is $10 per ticket — but the race has evolved in several ways during the past quarter-century.

In 1988, the auxiliary was happy to raise $4,500. Within a few years, ticket sales had more than tripled after auxiliary members donned duck hats, dressed up in duck costumes and created a “quack-up” in the Fourth of July parade. Local merchants generously donated more prizes as the event continued to grow in every way except length.

The original race course started at Dr. Rich Weiss Park and floated down more than 12 blocks to the finish line in Lincoln Park, across from the Depot Art Center. By moving the starting line to the Brooklyn Bridge on Fifth Street, the auxiliary has shortened the suspense for the crowds who cheer on the ducks as they bob downstream.

“At least the first 75 ducks across the finish line will win prizes this year,” said Liz Wright, co-chair of the prize committee. “We have a season ski pass, several golf outings, a helicopter ride, gift baskets and restaurant gift certificates, to name just a few of the prizes.”

“We are so grateful to people who buy tickets, our consistent sponsors who have donated prizes for years and new businesses that support this event,” said Sandie Ihlenfeldt, Rubber Ducky Race publicity chairperson. “Everyone who loves this race is helping the hospital to grow.”

Auxiliary members are selling tickets at City Market every day this week. On Saturday morning, ticket sales will begin at 9 a.m. at Fifth and Yampa streets. At 10 a.m., an expected 2,500 duckies will cascade into the river.

If you already have adopted a duck or plan to do so, our volunteers sincerely thank you for supporting their efforts and their cause: a medically sophisticated and comforting community hospital. May your ducky be lucky.

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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