Photo |  RMHC of Mobile
The second annual Rubber Ducky Regatta benefitting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile will be Saturday, Aug. 25, from 10 a.m. until noon at Cooper Riverside Park.


BY CATHERINE RAINEY

Making its second appearance in Mobile, the Rubber Ducky Regatta, organized by Ronald McDonald House, will take place at Cooper Riverside Park at 10 a.m. this Saturday, Aug. 25.

Founded in 1974, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) specializes in helping ailing children and their families. When a child is seriously ill, lower-income families often have to sleep in their cars or in waiting rooms during their child’s stay in a hospital. That’s where RMHC comes in, providing temporary housing for families of patients.

“It’s wonderful to witness these kids get better alongside their parents,” said Mary McAleer, the house’s development director, when asked why she got into nonprofit work. “You see a small child who is terribly sick, with no energy, and then later they come back and visit and they’re a lively 2-year-old — like they’re supposed to be. I originally wanted to help people, but I feel like it’s helped me more than I expected.”

The purpose of the regatta is not only to make a splash with local advocates and laymen alike by spreading awareness of children in need, it’s also to have a great time with local people and vendors. Attractions include face painting, a local balloon clown, ice cream from Cammie’s Old Dutch and a tugboat dance, to name a few. The Joe Jefferson Players will make an appearance with a snippet of their “Mama Mia!” performance. You might even glimpse a couple of princesses.

“Last year I was walking around the event and suddenly Ariel appeared,” McAleer reminisces. “I was thinking, ‘Oh! this is fantastic.’”

The rubber ducky race is where the opportunity for you to help comes in.

“Ducks are $5 apiece, and the winner gets two tickets for a Carnival cruise, but you don’t have to be present to win!” exclaims Paul Giardina, executive director at Ronald McDonald House. The affair will involve no fewer than 10,000 of these friendly floating fellows.

The ducks will be dropped into the Mobile River and run with the water’s current along a buoyed course. The ducks will be corralled by boats from the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department and United States Coast Guard to prevent any from escaping the course. Each duck is numbered, so if you win, you won’t find yourself digging through thousands of ducks wondering which one is yours. If you‘d like more than one duck, no problem. It gives you more of a chance to score some sweet prizes.

Various other winnings include: a family pack to visit the Gulf Coast Exploreum, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum passes and a private duck boat tour, among many others.

Although the regatta is only on its second run in Mobile, it has been making waves in other cities around the globe for many years. Rubber ducky races have been used for fundraising events since before the 1990s. The first one ever recorded was in Canada, and the largest one to date was in London, England, with 200,000 ducks!

“We first heard about it from Chicago. Here we are a nonprofit that supports children and we didn’t have an event that involves them,” McAleer mused. “We have Little Black Dress, which is 21 and older, and we have Girls Just Want to Have Fun — but they’re all adult events.”

The opportunity doesn’t come every day for you and yours to visit beautiful Cooper Riverside Park and witness a family-fun rubber ducky race.

“We thrive in our water environment. The city is extremely excited about it, and it’s fun to get downtown and see something like this happening on the river,” McAleer said. “It’s just a happy feeling.”

For more information, visit www.rubberduckyregatta.com.