They came wearing duck-shaped hats. They blew whistles that quacked. And they lined the New River downtown Saturday to cheer on their favorite rubber ducks to the finish line.
A truck dumped 20,000 toy ducks into the river during the second annual Duck Fest Derby, which was projected to raise $150,000 for Kids in Distress, a nonprofit organization that cares for abused and neglected children. To sponsor a duck in the race cost $5.
The fastest yellow duck belonged to Thomas Warren of Pembroke Pines, who will take home a 2008 Scion xD automobile. Warner was on his way downtown for lunch when someone asked him to sponsor a duck. He ended up sponsoring 100.
"I'd never heard of the Duck Fest Derby," said the 37-year-old veterinary technician. "But when I heard the words Kids in Distress, I thought, 'I have to donate.'"
Other prizes included a laptop, an IKEA shopping spree and a one-week stay in Orlando.
Mary Von Den Heulen also considered herself and her two children among the winners. Through Kids in Distress, Von Den Heulen became a foster parent to Hayley, 8, and Brandon, 3. The children anxiously watched the race, hoping one of their 40 ducks would take home the second-place laptop prize. Von Den Heulen, 44, said the $200 she spent on the ducks was worth it. Kids in Distress programs have helped her older daughter find stability and acceptance, she said.
A few steps away, Shae Montalvo, 12, watched the ducks float downstream, hoping for a replacement for her broken laptop.
"I really like the whole idea of watching ducks race by," said Montalvo, who had 12 of them in the water.
Her mom, Cindy Montalvo, donates to Kids in Distress every year. The Coral Springs woman said the organization has a huge impact on children in South Florida. "They use their money wisely," she said. "I don't give money to too many charities."
The Duck Fest Derby kicked off at 11 a.m. with music and dancing. A rock-climbing wall and a bounce house entertained children before the start of the race.
Alexia Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4513.