Rocky Fork Enterprise

Creekside duck race to benefit Children's

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Little rubber ducks will be racing down the Big Walnut Creek at Gahanna's Creekside next month as a fundraiser to benefit the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

The third annual Columbus Duck Race & Run will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, with a 5K and 10K race for adults and a short run for children.

Thousands of ducks will be dropped into the creek at 11:30 a.m. at the Marina at Creekside Park.

Anyone who wants to run in the races should register online at columbusduckrace.com. Every runner automatically is entered into the duck race. Early package pickup begins from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at Fleet Feet, 1270 E. Powell Road, Lewis Center.

Katie Zachrich, event chairman, said anyone who purchases a rubber duck, enters the foot races or donates to the cause is fueling the treatment, cure and prevention of childhood diseases.

Nationwide Children's will provide and maintain possession of all rubber ducks that will have serial numbers for tracking purposes.

The numbers are emailed a few days prior to the race to registered participants, and winners will be announced the day of the event. Prizes are coordinated within seven business days, and participants need not be present to win.

The registered owner of the winning duck will receive a one-year prepaid lease for a BMW Mini Cooper, courtesy of BMW Financial Services. The second-place winner will receive groceries and/or gas for a year, valued at $5,200, from Kroger. The registered owner of the third-place duck will win $1,000 cash from Kemba Financial Credit Union.

Ducks may be purchased online at columbusduckrace.com. The cost is $5 for a duck; a family of six ducks, $25; a flock of 12 ducks, $50; and a colony of 25 ducks, $100.

Cynthia Laux, director of annual giving at the NCH Foundation, said the duck race has raised $141,794 through the 2012 and 2013 events.

She said this year's goal is to sell 20,000 ducks and raise $100,000.

Gary Bowen, Columbus Duck Race founder and division manager at consulting firm DLZ, said the event took flight when the Nationwide Children's Hospital development board was looking for a family-oriented community event.

"We wanted something that was family-friendly and targeted one of the hospital's areas of greatest need -- pediatric research," he said. "We also believed and still believe that the cause and the community is perfect for an event of this type and could someday match what Cincinnati does for their food bank. They raise over $800,000 per year."

"If we could achieve this kind of success, it would be our largest event," Bowen said.

Zachrich, who's also a commercial real-estate broker at Colliers International, said the duck race was held in downtown Columbus the first two years, with ducks dropped off the Broad Street bridge.

"It made sense at the time with the dramatics of the river and the increased attention downtown," she said. "Plus it was centrally located. We knew coming into 2014 that we were going to run into problems with our venue, given the construction project planned for the river. In the process of them reducing the width of the river, it was not going to lend itself well for us to hold an event focused on the river."

When Creekside owners Strathmore Development Co. was proposed with the idea of the duck race, Zachrich said, the event was welcomed with open arms.

"Our first meeting was an instant connection with Strathmore and city of Gahanna representatives," she said. "We couldn't say no. We felt that the enthusiasm and encouragement we were given from Gahanna and Strathmore were exactly what we needed to take our event to the next level. Gahanna's people and the actual venue were a natural fit."

Zachrich, a 2004 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate, said she was excited about the opportunity to build the event in her hometown.

"Gary Bowen did such a great job at laying the groundwork for this event," she said. "We have done well the first two years. If you compare our early numbers to some of the duck races around the country, it is incredible the progress we made so quickly.

"This is, in a big part, to all the people involved in the race, but also in the power of the purpose -- Nationwide Children's Hospital."

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