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November 1, 2012

Rotary's Duck Regatta sets charity record

Club passes $500k donation mark in last 10 years

They’ve reached the half-million dollar mark, and have rubber ducks to thank for much of their success.

The Haverhill Rotary Club just passed $500,000 in donations to about 60 local and regional charities, with much of the money raised in recent years through the club’s Rubber Duck Regatta, which began in 2009. The $500,000 was raised in the last 10 years.

A fun event that is growing in popularity, this year’s regatta took place Sept. 15, when 10,000 rubber ducks were dumped over the side of the Basiliere Bridge into the Merrimack River. The ducks drifted downstream as crowds on both sides of the river eagerly waited to see whose would reach the finish line first and win its owner the $10,000 cash prize.

There was one moment of drama when a fast current and choppy water swept about 600 ducks over the finish line barrier. Duck wranglers in boats chased the errant flock and captured the ducks in nets.

In the days leading up to the event, Rotary Club members were feeling elated, as ducks were flying off to their adopted parents in greater numbers than ever before. The online site where adoptions could be made displayed a thermometer showing the number of adoptions. Club members watched as the red line went higher and higher before peaking at the goal of 10,000 adopted ducks just hours before the event took place. It was the first time since the inception of the regatta that all 10,000 ducks were adopted, Rotary Club President Frank Novak said.

“People kept coming and the best we could do was to take their names, numbers and emails in a non-binding reservation for next year’s regatta,” Novak said. “It’s not often that a service organization sells out an event of this size. I’d like to think that it is because of the dedication and commitment of the Rotary members and also for those that we provide a benefit to. I guess that’s why our international slogan is ‘service above self.’”

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