Miya Uyeda checks out an assortment of rubber ducks at a booth during the 2011 Rubber Duckie Race, which benefits the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii. (File Photo/West Hawaii Today)
Jack Forristall of Scotsdale, Ariz., tries his hand at fishing for rubber duckies at the 2011 Rubber Duckie Race, which benefits the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii. (File Photo/West Hawaii Today)
Two decades ago, when the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii first ran rubber duckie races as a fundraiser in Hawaii, UCPA Executive Director Donna Fouts didn’t envision just how big the events would get.
This summer, the Big Island fundraiser will convene for the 22nd year, dropping thousands of yellow rubber duckies into a pond at the Kings’ Shops at the Waikoloa Beach Resort to raise tens of thousands of dollars to benefit the association. The Waikoloa event is July 4, and that event, combined with a similar fundraiser on Oahu that has run for 26 years, has raised more than $1 million for the organization.
“This is at $5 a smack,” Fouts said, referring to how donations come in to the races. “This is not a corporate dinner. A souvenir duck is $2.”
Donors adopt a duck for $5, and the donor’s name is attached to the duck with a waterproof certificate. At 3 p.m. July 4, the ducks are dropped into the pond and race to the finish line. The first 50 ducks to cross the finish line win a prize. Prizes total $25,000.
Last year, the Waikoloa race raised more than $35,000 for the association. Those dollars make a difference, Fouts said.
“If you write a grant, it’s often very restrictive” about how the organization can use the money, she said. The grants often don’t cover certain kinds of training, for example, or cannot be used to expand service hours for certain kinds of service.
While the association includes cerebral palsy in its name, only about 30 percent of the organization’s clients have that particular diagnosis, Fouts said. The group also works with children with autism and offers a variety of services. She didn’t have a specific number of Big Island children whom the organization serves, but noted about 1 in every 333 births can result in a child being born with cerebral palsy, and autism diagnoses are on the rise.
UCPA focuses on providing some services on Oahu, but helps neighbor island families connect with other service providers closer to home, as well as assists families with some travel costs to Oahu for medical care and providing education on all islands. Fouts said just having the fundraiser in Waikoloa can help connect a family affected by a disability diagnosis with the organization because it reminds Big Island residents that the organization exists.
She’s also noticed, over the years, some tourists planning their vacation around the fundraising event. She said people will come up to her to let her know they came back over the holiday just to participate in the rubber duckie race.
Fouts didn’t realize, back when the organization started the rubber duckie races, just how well the ducks would resonate with tourists, especially those visiting from Japan.
“We picked a good one for Hawaii,” she said.
The ducks go on sale during the first week of June. People may make the donation at the Kings’ Shops Management Office and at the Queens’ MarketPlace Management Office. Mail-in order forms will be available at Waikoloa Village Market, and online donations can be made at KingsShops.com. On race day, look for the United Cerebral Palsy Association duck booths where donations can be made until race time. In addition to being able to donate for a single duck, donors may purchase a “quack pack” of four adoption certificates and a duckie T-shirt for $25.