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Clayton CASA preparing to unleash the ducks

The ducks are coming! The ducks are coming!

While it’s not exactly the call let out by Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride, it is the phrase the Clayton County Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) group uses to advertise its annual Darlin’ Duck Derby fundraiser.

The rubber duckies are scheduled to line up again on Sept. 24, and get their racing on — down a big makeshift slide on the front lawn of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse, at 121 South McDonough Street, in Jonesboro.

Money raised from the event helps cover some of the operations costs of Clayton County CASA, a group which provides volunteers to act as advocates of the needs of children in the court system, said Gerald Bostock, the Clayton County Juvenile Court Child Welfare Services Coordinator. Bostock is also Clayton County CASA’s director.

“It goes back to support the volunteers who work for CASA,” Bostock said. “It helps with mileage reimbursement for volunteers who have to use their own gas [for their cars] to go to see the children they are working with. It also covers training expenses for volunteers. It covers marketing [for Clayton County CASA], and helps pay for our retention efforts for volunteers.”

Clayton County CASA’s leader said the actual racing of the ducks lasts approximately seven minutes, but he added the group will make a full day event out of the 13th annual derby. He said the derby, and all of its associated activities happening at the historic courthouse on Sept. 24, will last from 10 a.m., to 6 p.m., with live musical performances, food vendors and slides, games and a rock-climbing wall for children.

The ducks will do what they do (race down a makeshift slide, propelled by water) at 4 p.m., Bostock said.

The way the derby works is people buy tickets, which cost $10 a piece, to enter the race. Each ticket gets a person one duck (which will be numbered to correspond with the owner’s ticket). CASA brings the ducks to the race, lines them up, and when the derby begins, people who bought tickets get to see if their rubber ducky’s racing skills are all they are quacked up to be.

Bostock said 4,000 rubber ducks are used in the race, “and we’re not sold out yet, but we want to sell out.” He explained CASA has never been able to sell all 4,000 duck tickets available for the derby in any given year before. He said Duck Derby organizers decided to change this year’s event, by doing away with the derby’s annual car raffle, and giving the car to the first-place duck’s owner instead.

“We believe more people might be encouraged to buy tickets if there is a chance to win a car,” Bostock said.

People interested in having a ticket to participate in the derby are being asked to download a ticket application form off the derby’s web site, www.ducksrcoming.com/, fill the application out and send it, along with the entry fee, to 121 South McDonough Street, Annex 3, Jonesboro, Ga., 30236, Attn: Gerald Bostock. They can call (770)477-3268, or (678)610-1061 for more information about tickets.

The car scheduled to be given to the first-place winner is a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer, provided by Heritage Cadillac SAAB, according to Bostock. He added that the owner of the second-place duck will win a $2,000 cash prize, while the third-place finisher will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Clayton County CASA Advisory Board member Mario Orizabal said the car could prove to be a participation booster this year. “Perhaps, with the giving away of a car, maybe that will encourage more people to buy a ticket,” he said.

CASA’s upping the stakes with the first place prize this year, Bostock said, not only because organizers want to sell more race tickets, but also because they want to do something to bring more public attention to the costs needed for the group to function. He said in addition to holding fundraisers, the group also has to obtain grants, and get funding for the county government to provide its services.

The Clayton County CASA Advisory Board, which receives CASA’s funding on the group’s behalf and then “re-invests,” or gives the group the amount of money it needs annually to operate, typically “re-invests” an average of $20,000, to $30,000 in the group per year, Bostock said.

“I think we’ve done a good job of educating the public about what services we provide,” he said. “Now, we need to make people aware of how much money it costs to provide those services. It takes a lot of money to provide the services that we provide to the children we serve.”

Clayton County CASA volunteers provided services to more than 500 children in 2010, Bostock said.

In addition to hosting Duck Derby events on Sept. 24, there is also an ongoing “Duck Tour” making its way around the county in the weeks leading up to the race. Each year, Bostock explained, Clayton County CASA hosts a “Duck-O-Ration” contest, where companies purchase a large rubber duck, and then decorate it in any way they choose.

The decorated ducks are then entered in a contest where members of the public vote on their favorite duck, at sites along the “Duck Tour.” The public’s favorite duck (i.e.: the duck that gets the most votes) is scheduled to be announced at a private V.I.D. (stands for “Very Important Duck,” of course) Party held Sept. 22 for Duck Derby sponsors.

To see the ducks, people can go to Oakwood Cafe, at 16 Forest Pkwy., in Forest Park, until Monday. After Monday, the ducks will be available for viewing at Orthopaedic South, at 6645 Lake Drive, in Jonesboro. The ducks will be at Orthopaedic South through Sept. 8.

Future dates and locations for the “Duck Tour” include: Clayton State University Library (from Sept. 8, to Sept. 11), at 2000 Clayton State Blvd., in Morrow; Heritage Cadillac SAAB (Sept. 12, through Sept. 14), at 7134 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow; Krispy Kreme (Sept. 15, through Sept. 18) at 6689 Ga. Hwy. 85, in Riverdale; Heritage Bank (Sept. 19, through Sept. 21), at 101 North Main Street, in Jonesboro, and Chili’s restaurant (Sept. 22), at 2230 Mt. Zion Pkwy., in Morrow.