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uac013013001.gif The Fayetteville Duck Derby is fairly new as a local fundraiser, but already it is one that the community looks forward to each year. There are plenty of fun ways to participate, even if it doesn’t involve Quacky.

Typically, around March, local bars and restaurants compete in the Duck Derby Drink and Appetizer Competition to claim the honor of creating and serving the official Duck Derby Drink/Appetizer. For several weeks the public is invited to visit their favorite participating bars and restaurants to sample and compare the various treats and vote on their favorites. The votes are tallied and the winners are proclaimed at the Duck Derby, which is on May 4, giving the establishments bragging rights for a year. The local chefs and mixologists relish the challenge of offering creative food and drinks that the public can enjoy while supporting a great cause at the same time.

In the weeks leading up to the event, people are encouraged to buy rubber ducks to enter in the race. The ducks are given computer-generated numbers and are randomly tagged.

Quacky, the event mascot, makes appearances around town, and sometimes around the world, posting his adventures on Facebook. This season, he has already been spotted at the Fayetteville Christmas Parade and with visiting journalist Geraldo Rivera.

On race day, thousands gather at the Cape Fear River, usually at Campbellton Landing, as 15,000 to 20,000 ducks are dropped into the river. In previous years, prizes have included a new car, beach and mountain get-away weekends, gift certificates to local spas and golf courses, silent auctions and more. This year, the grand prize is a 2013 Toyota Scion D. The day has also included music, food, kids’ activities and vendors — all the ingredients for a fun day, and best of all, admission is free.

While the Duck Derby was originally established as a fundraiser for Fayetteville Urban Ministry, other nonprofits can get in on the action by registering as a team. Once a team is established, anyone who chooses to buy a duck — or several ducks — can choose which team will receive funding from the purchase. Teams have included everything from child advocacy groups to arts-related nonprofits to health-related charities and even corporate teams.

Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s mission is “to show God’s compassion for our neighbors in need, and thus build our community together.” This is accomplished through several programs.

The Emergency Assistance program was started in 1974. It provides food, clothing and financial assistance to those in crisis. In fiscal year 2010/2011, this program touched more that 5,000 family members and more than 300 homeless people.

The Nehemiah project was founded in 1993. Volunteers from local churches repair ho01-30-13-duck-derby.gifmes of low-income home owners. It did not take long for this program to grow. In 1994 the emergency home-repair program that was run by the Community Development Department of the City of Fayetteville became a part of this program. Between 170 and 200 elderly and/or low income home owners receive help from the Nehemiah Project.

Locally, 24 percent of adults read at lower than a fifth-grade level. Since 1976, the Adult Literacy Program has assisted adults in the areas of reading, writing, math, English and in computer skills. Literacy doesn’t just benefit the adult student; their family members benefit, too. Approximately 150-185 adults are served through this program each year.

The Find-A-Friend Program was started in 1982. This program engages high risk kids with after-school activities and programs, summer camps and field trips. According to www.fayurbmin.org, “It costs taxpayers more than $100,000 per year to house one juvenile in confinement, and the cost to our community is limitless when a youth yields to the temptations of chronic truancy, crime and anti-social behavior. It takes less than $1,500 to sponsor a youth in FAF to participate in one year full of prevention services with a full Summer Achievement Camp.”

More than 200 youth are touched by this program every year and Find-A-Friend boasts an 80 percent success rate.

Find out more about Fayetteville Urban Ministry, visit www.fayurbmin.org. Learn more about the Duck Derby at www.facebook.com/fayettevilleduckderby. This year’s event is scheduled for May 4, so go ahead and mark your calendar.

Photo: Geraldo Rivera and Johnny Wilson.

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