Webbed feet were painted on sidewalks, directing visitors to the start of the third annual Great Columbus Duck Race & Run on Aug. 23 at Gahanna's Creekside.
The event is estimated to have raised more than $60,000 for the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said Katie Zachrich, event chairwoman and 2004 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate.
Zachrich said the number of yellow rubber ducks sold for the fundraiser more than doubled last year's sales -- from 5,000 to 10,628.
As thousands of ducks were propelled into the water about noon, people lined the Big Walnut Creek wearing duck-face hats and duckbill whistles around their necks.
The duck race began by the Creekside paddleboats, with the finish line by the pedestrian bridge/walkway.
Three men helped move the rubber ducks down the water to the finish, as a pair of real ducks unexpectedly flew ahead of the race.
The first-place duck, purchased on the day of the event, won Columbus resident Keiko Shinoka a one-year prepaid lease for a BMW Mini Cooper, courtesy of BMW Financial Services.
"I'm so excited," Shinoka said. "I can't believe it."
She purchased six ducks for $25.
The second-place duck belonged to Penny Molenaur, who won groceries/gas for a year, valued at $5,200, from Kroger. The third-place winner was Mehek Cook, who won $1,000 cash from Kemba Financial Credit Union.
Preceding the duck race was a 5K and 10K run/race for adults and a short run for children. Various games and entertainment were provided, such as stilt walkers Kate Hunsaker and Victoria Woods, who also was the voice of flower puppet Little Mama Sunshine.
"This is a great event, with lots of little kids," Hunsaker said.
Linda Cohen of Reynoldsburg and Ivette Coral of Gahanna were all smiles, sporting foam-rubber duck hats. They learned about the race during a recent health and wellness fair.
"It's awesome," Cohen said. "We have two ducks (in the race)."
Tom and Barbie Zachrich were visiting Creekside from Toledo to support daughter-in-law Katie, event chairwoman.
They were entertaining granddaughters Scarlett Huebner, 4, and her 22-month-old sister, Violet.
"We came last year," Barbie Zachrich said. "The girls always have a good time."
Scarlett had her face painted like a leopard and held onto a stuffed duck that quacked.
All of the fun was for a serious cause, raising money for the Research Institute.
Event proceeds will benefit children like Westerville's Reagan McGee, a 2-year-old who recently was diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic disorder called Sanfilippo syndrome.
Even though the disease has no known cure or treatment, Reagan's family has hope, thanks to Nationwide Children's Hospital researchers, who expect a possible gene-therapy treatment to go to human clinical trials soon.
The institute is organized into 12 centers of emphasis that allow traditional academic boundaries to be crossed and merged to facilitate interdisciplinary research. Among these centers is the Center for Gene Therapy, where the research is occurring on Sanfilippo syndrome.
Gary Bowen, Columbus Duck Race & Run founder and division manager at DLZ, said the duck race began 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," Bowen said.
Katie Zachrich, a commercial real estate broker at Colliers International, said the development board of Nationwide Children's Hospital is a dynamic group of philanthropic-minded business professionals who give generously of their time, talents and resources to further the hospital's mission.
"The Great Columbus Duck Race and Run, being our newest event, we are thrilled with the growth we saw in this year's third annual event, with double the ducks, runners and sponsorships over last year," she said. "Thank you to Gahanna and Strathmore (Development) for hosting, and we look forward to building on this success."
Cynthia Laux, director of annual giving at the NCH Foundation, said the duck race had raised $141,794 through the 2012 and 2013 events, which were held in downtown Columbus.
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