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uac020112001.jpgKatie Crenshaw and Aurora Alexander are passionate about ducks, — rubber ducks — not because they are cute and yellow and they bob around so playfully in the water, but because ducks change lives. Crenshaw and Alexander are the organizers of the Fayetteville Duck Derby, an event that sold more than 15,000 ducks and raised more than $120,000 for local nonprofi ts in 2011.

Last year, the inaugural Duck Derby took the town by storm. Local restaurants created drinks and appetizers for the event and competed for the honor of being the official Duck Derby refreshment. Ducky was spotted at locations around town and pictures poured in showing his adventures. Nonprofi ts teamed up and supported one another in the community fundraiser, and local businesses and sponsors generously offered up some great prizes. The event culminated at Campbellton Landing where thousands of ducks were poured into the Cape Fear River and spectators were treated to a family friendly day of food, fun, music and Fayetteville’s fi st official duck race.

“This event really brought awareness to a lot of local nonprofits,” said Alexander. “In fact, last year Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s Find-a-Friend program was on the chopping block due to budget cuts.”

“It was money raised by the Duck Derby that saved the Find-a-Friend program,” added Crenshaw.

The event was great fun indeed, and full of many high points for the two volunteers, but in the end it was watching nonprofi s get some much-needed exposure and funding that really touched them.

“There were so many moments during the Duck Derby campaign that just left us in tears,” said Alexander. “The support from the community was amazing. This brought awareness to a lot of local non-profi ts. People didn’t just come to this event, they were excited to be there — and that meant so much.”

This year looks to be just as exciting, maybe even more so.

The campaign kicks-off with an invitation only Very-Important-Duck Party. Blue Moon, Chris’s Open Hearth Steak House, Hellas Restaurant & Sports Bar, Hilltop House, Huske Hardware Restaurant & Brewery, IT’Z Entertainment City, Mash House Brewery & Chophouse Restaurant, Pierro’s Italian Bistro and The Wing Company have all stepped up to compete for the honor of creating the offi cial appetizer and the offi cial Duck Derby Drink.

Their menu items will be revealed at the VID party and then during the months of March and April, the community is invited to visit any one — or every one — of these eateries, try their specially created menu items and cocktails and then go to the Duck Derby website to vote for their favorite. The winner is announced at the event, which is May 5.

Part of the 31 Day Salute, the Duck Derby is military friendly.

“We are really happy about the connection we have with the military. They are such a huge part of the community,” said Alexander. “Our first unofficial ducks that floated down the river last year had a military escort. We also observed a moment of silence at the event. This year we are pleased to add another element; a military unit is going to bring a display to the Duck Derby, too.”

Alexander and Crenshaw are looking to make this event fun, but just like last year, the real goal is to benefi t the community.

“Learning about the local nonprofi ts and knowing that you are making a difference, is really a big part of this,” said Crenshaw.

Last year, the two spoke with countless people and met with local captains of industry to get the campaign off the ground.

“Even if we never raised a dime, everyone that we spoke with about supporting the event sat through our presentation, which talked about the organizations that would benefit from the Duck Derby.”

Local organizations and businesses stepped up last year and are returning again to take part in the fun and make a difference too.

“Really the biggest thing people can do now to help, is to go out and adopt a duck. The ducks are available online at the Duck Derby website and can also be purchased at the corporate sponsors listed on the website. Keep an eye out for chances to adopt ducks at community events like 4th Friday and FireAntz games.

When it comes time to adopt a duck, choose a t02-01-12-duck-derby-car.jpgeam (nonprofit) and they will receive some of the proceeds from this event. If you are feeling noncommittal, adopt a duck without choosing a team and the money will go to support Fayetteville Urban Ministry. There are 15,000 ducks waiting to be adopted, so the competition is stiff, but the prizes are pretty enticing.

The grand prize, donated by Rick Hendrick Toyota, is a 2012 Toyota Scion TC; second prize is a Las Vegas getaway; third prize is a catered Cape Fear River Cruise; fourth prize is a set of tires from Good Year and fifth prize is a year membership to The Spa Fitness & Wellness Center and Renaissance European Day Spa Gift Certificates.

Visit www.Fayetttevilleduckderby.com to adopt a duck or to find out more about the fun-filled event.

Photo: The Duck Derby Committee — Back row:  Katie Glover, Ruthie Dent, Christy Short, Katie Crenshaw Front row:  SarahMarie Daughtry, Jenny Beaver, MaryJane Jones, Mandy McMillan, Aurora Alexander Not photographed:  Leonna Byrd, Melissa Reed, Juelle McDonald, Holly Vollor, April Pridgen. 

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