CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A total of 10,000 rubber ducks will get dumped into the Kanawha River in Charleston Saturday in a race to see which top 10 sponsored ducks can be hailed champions.

Hosted by the United Way of Central West Virginia, The Great Rubber Duck Race returns to the river for its fourth year and year two as being a part of the Sternwheel Regatta.

People are encouraged to adopt as many rubber ducks as they want for $5 each to take part in the race. United Way of Central West Virginia President Margaret O’Neal said the dollars given to sponsor a duck for the event go back into the community.

“All of it benefits the United Way of Central West Virginia, our program partners, and the great work we do inside our organization,” O’Neal said.

And she said if you really want to ensure you have a winning duck and make an even bigger impact, it’s more productive to purchase a Flock of Ducks for $100 which gives you 25 ducks.

After last year’s race saw just 5,000 ducks getting dumped, O’Neal said this year the theme was ‘Double Your Luck, Double Your Ducks,’ with a goal to expand the ducks to 10,000.

She said they set the bar high this year to sell twice as many ducks as they did last year, and while they have not quite reached that goal yet, they are very close. O’Neal said they hope that the more outreach they can do until the event Saturday at noon more people will buy a duck which will help push them over the mark.

O’Neal said the event is an easy and fun way to contribute to UWCWV’s mission of helping to meet the needs of individuals and families across the six counties– Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Braxton, Clay and Logan counties– in which they serve.

“You know, it really is a great way to contribute for anyone who wants to make a contribution to the United Way we want them to feel comfortable doing that, and so, $5 for your duck and a chance to win $4,000,” she said.

The top 10 ducks that cross the finish line receive prizes. The first place winner gets $4,000, second place $1,000 and multiple other high-value prizes such as WVU and Marshall football tickets go to the remaining winning ducks.

O’Neal said people can still buy a duck at the Regatta before the event Saturday. The United Way has a booth set up at the corner of Laidley Street and the Kanawha Boulevard. She said you can also enter online by texting “Duckrace” to 51555, and that will take you directly to the entry page on their website.

She said with the help of United Way’s 34 program partners, they work really hard to make sure the health, education, and financial stability needs of the communities they serve are being met.

To meet those needs, O’Neal said they provide various services year-round.

One way she said is through their Equal Footing Shoe Fund where they work with teachers and counselors throughout the six counties to provide new shoes to kids during the school year. Last year, she said they distributed nearly 3,000 shoes to kids who needed them.

In addition, O’Neal said they also operate West Virginia 211, which is the state’s information and referral number for the region where people can reach out for anything non-emergent and ask for assistance, whether it’s regarding food insecurity, housing needs, child care providers, etc.

She said sponsorship events like The Rubber Duck Race make a huge impact on the work they do.

“A lot of good comes from your $5 donation to adopt a duck, and last year in 2023, 83,343 individuals were impacted by your United Way contribution, so if you adopted a duck last year, you know, win or lose, we think you are a winner because you really made a significant impact on the lives’ of people in our community,” said O’Neal.

During Saturday’s event, people will be able to watch the ducks get dumped off of the South Side Bridge into the water on a big screen at the levy at Haddad Riverfront Park. O’Neal said following the race, winners will be announced as quickly as possible after they can pull all of the ducks from the water.

She said while West Virginia American Water is the main sponsor of the event, several other organizations and volunteers help contribute. And O’Neal said they are again ready to witness the ducks in action.

“It’s a community effort and it’s a great feeling, and there’s nothing quite like seeing those ducks get dumped off that bridge.”

The Great Duck Race will begin at noon Saturday at Haddad Riverfront Park.

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