LUMBERTON — It was twice as nice at the Boys and Girls Club of Robeson County Duck Race on Saturday, which for the first time ever held two races instead of one.
According to Ron Ross, executive director of the club, it was the board of directors’ decision to have a second race this year, which is the 10th annual event. The club sold at least 425 tickets this year, which raised about $10,500 for the club, Ross said.
Normally, participants pay $25 for a plastic duck with an assigned number on it. The ducks are dumped from a box into the Lumber River at Stephens Park and the current carries them to the finish line 300 yard away. The lucky duck to cross the finish line first wins its owner $2,000 if the owner is present, and $1,000 if the owner is absent.
This year, participants had the option of a $10 duck race, which was held first. The same rules applied, but the winner received $500 regardless of whether they’re at the race.
James McGirt, of Lumberton, won the $2,000 cash prize and a $250 gift certificate from Fairfield Inn of Lumberton with duck No. 81.
McGirt, who plans to put the money into a savings for his granddaughter, said this is the second time he’s come to the race and purchased a duck.
“He had ticket No. 81 and I said that’s the year I graduated (college),” he said. “That’s a lucky charm, so 81 won the race.”
Noel Glynn Evans, of Lumberton, won the $10 duck race with duck No. 94. Like McGirt, this was Evans’ second time participating in the race.
“I ain’t made any plans yet,” Evans said, shaking his head and smiling.
Ross said the duck race is a valuable fundraiser for the Robeson County club, which he said is the only club in the country to charge a $1 membership fee and no program service fees. Many of the 4,700 other clubs in the United States charge from $500 up to $1,000 annual for a child’s membership.
If a child doesn’t have the $1 fee, he or she can work off the fee with 15 minutes of work, such as sweeping the floors.
“Why do we do that? We don’t want to turn away any boy or girl that wants to join,” Ross said. “We know that if you reach them early enough, they won’t get in trouble with the law, they will not drop out of school.”
The club last year served 455 children.
“Not one of them dropped out of school, not one of them failed their grade and not one of them got in trouble with the law,” Ross said.
Money raised helps cover fees and a variety of programs offered by the club, including homework assistance and alcohol, drug and gambling prevention.
Hundreds showed up on Saturday. While many people sat on the river bank and watched the ducks make their journey, others visited the booths set up by vendors.
Children threw rocks into the river, got their faces painted or tried to win prizes in the game “Lucky Duck.” Free hot dogs and chips were available, and the Carolina Breakers provided music throughout the day.
Lifelong Lumberton residents Michelle and David Cox had never been to the duck race until Saturday, when they arrived with their 3-year-old daughter Lauren.
“We have a whole stack of ducks,” Michelle said. “It’s for a good cause, to support the Boys and Girls Club, and we’ve never been, actually.”
Michelle said she enjoyed seeing so many people at the race and getting to socialize.
“She is so excited about these ducks,” she said, nodding toward Lauren, who was sitting on David’s shoulders and watching the ducks float down the river.
Virtie Baldwin, who lived in Lumberton and recently moved to Wilmington, serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club and has been coming to the race since it began.
Baldwin, who came back to Lumberton for the race, purchased 10 of the $25 ducks this year. She planned to give the prize money back to the club if she won.
“It’s one of the best fundraisers that we have,” she said. “They’ve helped so many children to stay out of trouble and help their grades get better. It’s just an opportunity that they will never forget, and some of them would never have. We’re grateful for that.”
The race was even a hit with vendors who had never been to it before.
“I didn’t realize this many people came out in Robeson County,” said Niesha Richardson, of Verizon Wireless on Fayetteville Road. The store had a booth set up displaying several of its products and services, including a toy helicopter that can be controlled by a phone or iPad.
“I actually never even knew this park was here,” Richardson said. “We’re probably definitely going to come out again. This may be something annual that we decide to do.”