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Volunteers prepare for Darlin' Duck Derby

Rows of rubber ducks line a table at Heritage Cadillac Saab in Morrow on Friday, in preparation for the "Counting of the Flock," an annual certification of the ducks used in the Darlin' Duck Derby.

Rows of rubber ducks line a table at Heritage Cadillac Saab in Morrow on Friday, in preparation for the "Counting of the Flock," an annual certification of the ducks used in the Darlin' Duck Derby.

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Around this time of year, Travis Thornton, a support services staff member at Heritage Cadillac Saab of Morrow, spends a lot of his time washing, numbering, and counting rubber ducks. Lots of rubber ducks .

"Four thousand ducks [are] a lot of ducks to count," Thornton said. "Once you get up to 600, all the numbers run together."

For years now, Thornton and a handful of Heritage Cadillac Saab employees have meticulously cleaned, marked, and identified all the rubber ducks slated to race during the Darlin' Duck Derby, the largest, fund-raiser for Clayton County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

Their work will culminate with CASA's annual "Counting of the Flock" this Sunday, from 3 to 5 p.m., at Heritage Cadillac Saab in Morrow.

"Counting of the Flock" volunteers will certify the ducks that will race down a waterslide on the lawn of Clayton County's historic courthouse, during this year's Darlin' Duck Derby on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Sabrina Crawford, co-owner of the dealership, and chairman of the Friends of Clayton County CASA Advisory Board, said the preparation of each duck is important, as every duck has an owner betting on it to win.

"We verify [each duck], 1 to 4,000, to make sure that they are actually there," Crawford said. "They [Heritage Cadillac Saab employees] do all the prep work to make it quicker when the volunteers arrive."

According to Crawford, the "Counting of the Flock" includes getting rid of damaged ducks, numbering ducks whose numbers have worn away with time, and making sure all the ducks are accounted for.

"It's a very important part, because we want to make sure that if somebody buys a duck, it has a chance to cross the finish line," she said.

"Somebody could buy a $5 duck and win $2,000. You want to make sure the numbers are legible ... you don't want the duck to pass the finish line and have to say, 'I can't read that,' so we actually verify each duck."

Thornton said the work of preparing the ducks is tedious, but rewarding, because the money generated by duck sales helps meet the needs of children caught up in the juvenile justice through, either abandonment, or parental abuse.

"It usually takes a week to wash them, dry them, and get them counted out," said Thornton, who has been preparing ducks for six years. "That is working everyday, steadily, for three or four hours at a time."

However, "I know what CASA does for children. Just being able to help out, behind the scenes, so that CASA can help these children, it gives you a really good feeling."

David Perkins, a Heritage Cadillac Saab employee, who has prepared ducks for three years, said counting the ducks is his way of doing his part for the Darlin' Duck Derby. "I have a lot of respect for CASA," Perkins said. "The reason I like doing it is because it helps me get involved. I have to work, so I can't go to the festivities ... this is the way that I can help out."

On Sunday, volunteers at the "Counting of the Flock" will be treated to door prizes, music, and a chili cook-off, the winner of which will be announced during CASA's V.I.D. (Very Important Duck) Party, this Thursday at Chili's Grill and Bar in Morrow.

Heritage Cadillac Saab is located at 7134 Road in Morrow. For more information about volunteering with the "Counting of the Flock," call (770) 960-0060.