NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Canal Fest favorite is always for the birds: The annual Duck Race raises critical funds and awareness for Community Missions.
This Saturday afternoon, thousands of numbered plastic ducks will be dumped into the water by a team on a Sheriff’s Office boat. The ducks will race down the Erie Canal to the finish line, with the help of some jet skis creating a current to keep them moving.
Each duck is sponsored by a community member who made a donation to Community Missions to enter the race.
Crowds of cheering fans always line the canal to see whether their duck is the lucky duck of this year’s contest.
“Certainly you can’t see what number duck might be the winner, but we have pink, yellow, and blue (ducks), and so if you remember that you adopted a blue one, you’re cheering for any of those couple hundred that will be flying toward the finish line,” said Christian Hoffman, Director of Public Relations and Development for Community Missions.
The fastest ducks across the finish line win big prizes for the people who adopted them. The top prize is $500, with other top finishers getting Wegmans gift cards and passes to Get Air, a trampoline park in Buffalo.
Community members can make a donation to Community Missions to sponsor a duck or ducks for the race.
A single duck costs $5, a “Quack Pack” of six ducks costs $25, a “Quackers Dozen” of 13 ducks costs $50, while a “Flock” of 30 ducks costs $100.
Each dollar raised by the Duck Race goes to help Community Missions continue its work for the people of Niagara County.
In 2018 alone, Community Missions provided more than 119,000 meals and 13,000 nights of care through its crisis services programs.
Community Missions has helped countless Western New Yorkers since it was founded in 1925.
“In those 94 years, we’ve been the largest homeless shelter in Niagara County. We have one of two large soup kitchens that are operating in Niagara Falls, but then we’ve also grown out to several sub-categories of the homeless population,” Hoffman explained. “So we’ve added programs for mental illness, we’ve added programs for parolees that are being released from incarceration, we also have some youth programs, some after school programs for kids and residents out in Lockport.”
Hoffman says the Duck Race will raise thousands of dollars for Community Missions this year, and will help create more awareness in the community about the services the organization offers.
“They say a couple hundred thousand people walk through Canal Fest during that week, so that’s fantastic to kind of grow our awareness and talk a little bit as we’re selling the ducks about what it is that the money will be going to, which are things like going to support our community kitchen, our homeless shelter, our food pantry,” Hoffman said.
You can sponsor a duck by claiming it in person at the Community Missions tent on the Renaissance Bridge at Canal Fest right up until race time Saturday.
You can also sponsor a duck online to enter it into the race by going to www.communitymissions.org