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By Michelle Davies
Ducks are scooped out of the river by volunteers after the finish of Saturday's SCAN Duck Race.

SCAN Duck Race raises record $181,505

They’re calling it the year of a million and a mascot.

But even though no one won the million dollar prize at the 26th Annual Weigand Construction Duck Race to Benefit SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect), the race blew past it’s $168,500 goal and raised $181,505 for the organization to help children and families at risk.

“This is a record-breaking year,” said Britny Berndt, grants and communications manager for SCAN. Both the amount of money raised and the number of ducks are SCAN records.

More than 18,500 colorful plastic ducks participated in the race, and each duck was sponsored by a person or organization in the community for at least $5. Before the ducks hit the water, the morning started with a bubble party, face painting and carnival games at Johnny Appleseed Park at 10 a.m. Then when the tide was right, a crane released the ducklings on a short stretch down the St. Joe River.

But since the current was not moving fast enough to get the ducks swimming, SCAN opened the dam on the river to get the race going. Soon dozens of ducks were hopping over a barrier in the water to mark the confines of the race, and SCAN volunteers waded anxiously in the water on boats armed with laundry baskets to catch the ducklings gone astray.

The winning lucky duck belonged to Skip Lesh, who won $5,000 and had a chance to win a $1 million, payable as a 40-year annuity. But the number for his duck did not match the predetermined million dollar number.

Second prize of $1,000 went to Bert & Amy Coffield of Ossian. Third prize of $500 went to Annette Johnson of Fort Wayne, and fourth and fifth prizes of $250 went to Nancy Boyer of Fort Wayne and Austin Gull of Fort Wayne, respectively. Including the top five ducks, the first 26 ducks through the finish line were awarded various prize packages listed on SCAN’s website.

Along with the thrill of the race, attendees were the first to learn the new name of SCAN’s new duck mascot. Community members submitted names for SCAN’s duck, and the organization narrowed it down to five choices for the public to vote for on Facebook. The winning name was “Zoom.”

If you missed your chance to meet the Zoom the Duck this weekend, you can follow his Facebook page, and find him at community events later this year, Bernt said. (The official name of the Facebook page will be announced on SCAN’s website.)

Some attendees who had ducks in the race chose creative names for their own contestants, as well. Destiny Jordan of Fort Wayne came to the race with Shawn Hendrickson, and they purchased five ducks this year, assigning them quirky names, such as “Milk and Quackers” and “Captain Picard” from Star Trek.

But there was a serious cause behind the silliness of the race. Judy Parker of Fort Wayne who works for SCAN’s Daybreak Crisis Homes said the duck race benefits her work providing short-term child care for area parents when they have no one to watch their children during family emergencies, such as parent illness, domestic violence, post partum depression or mental health problems.

“We give parents a break when they’re stressed and overwhelmed,” Parker said. “The whole idea is preventing potential harm to the children.”

Parker brought four of her own children out to the event Saturday that marks the end of a rollercoaster ride of preparation for her and the rest of the SCAN team. She said all full-time employees at SCAN spent months going out into the community to help sell ducks and get sponsors for the race. But even though she’s a part-time employee, she pitched in and helped anyway.

“It does affect my program directly,” Parker said. “And it’s just fun.”