“For the past 13 years ... it has been a major source of fundraising revenue for us,” said Patty Eagar, CEO and president of Advocates, a Cartersville-based nonprofit, which serves more than 2,000 area youth through the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter and provides programs that assist in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse. “It helps us to keep the doors open, keep the lights on, keep the heat and the air condition going, and keep food on the table for the children’s shelter, keep the CASA volunteers trained, keep the Children’s Advocacy Center going so that they can continue to do all those incredibly difficult interviews of children, to help Rainbows’ kids who are grieving, to help First Steps moms get a good start with their new babies — just the whole gamut of all of our programs. It goes into our operating budget and we couldn’t do all of those things without it.”
While the duck race will be the highlight of the event at 2:30 p.m., there also will be a VID (Very Important Duck) race for those purchasing the VID package for $250 at 1 p.m. and the festival will be ongoing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also on Saturday, the 10th annual Duck Dash 5K/10K & Fun Run will be held at Cartersville Primary School, 315 Etowah Drive, at 8 a.m.
“[I enjoy] the community coming together,” Duck Derby Chair Nicole Hughes said about the Duck Derby. “It’s an awesome feeling to see everybody come out and support it and everybody buys ducks. I think it’s just the community togetherness is what’s great about it. Obviously the bigger picture is to help the shelter and to help the kids — that would be the ultimate goal — but what I like seeing personally is when everybody gets together as a community and helps.”
Since 55 percent of Advocates’ annual about $1.7 million budget is raised by the local community, events like the Duck Derby are integral to the nonprofit’s operations. While supplies last, ducks can be purchased at adoption sites across the community, online at www.AdvoChild.org and during the Duck Derby festivities on Saturday through 2 p.m. Packages run from $25 to $250 and individual ducks cost $5. In 2013, the event netted $80,000.
Stating duck sales were behind that of past years, Eagar is hoping the community rallies behind her organization this week, enabling Advocates to reach its goal of selling 20,000. According to an Advocates informational email on Monday morning, the nonprofit had sold 5,808 ducks, when prior years’ sales had reached 15,000 by this time.
The nonprofit’s Duck Derby fundraising season is coming to a close as a criminal investigation is underway regarding the alleged molestation of a 7-year-old boy in late March or early April by two juveniles, all of whom were residents of Advocates’ Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter at the time.
“It breaks our hearts that there are people saying ugly and untrue things about us, especially at this time when it is so important for us to raise this money,” Eagar said. “There is misinformation floating around from people who don’t have any idea about what they’re saying. They are accusing Advocates of covering things up. It’s just all wrong. I have not spoken because there are active investigations continuing ... at least five investigations. Some of them are complete but at least the law enforcement investigation is not complete, and if I were to talk about it, that would jeopardize justice being done.
“So I would love to stand at the top of a mountain and set the record straight but I just cannot do that yet. And it’s heartbreaking because we have still 2,500 kids a year that we’re helping and those kids need to not be forgotten and not be punished by misinformation that is being shared by a few, very vocal people.”
For more information about Advocates and its benefit, call 770-387-1143 or visit www.AdvoChild.org.