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'Rubber Ducky' Student Essay And Poster Contest Draws 200 Entries

Suzan Solomon, Cheryl Laymon, Teresa Todd and Phillip Solomon check out this year's 'Gotta Regatta' essay and poster entries.By Stephen K. Peeples

Judges converged on the Samuel Dixon Health Centers headquarters last week to choose the best posters and essays local K-12 students entered in the “Gotta Regatta Essay and Poster Contest,” designed to engage school-age kids in the 10th annual Rubber Ducky Festival fundraiser at Bridgeport Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dixon Executive Director Cheryl Laymon and Chief Operating Officer Phillip Solomon, joined by Newhall school board member Suzan Solomon and Rubber Ducky event coordinator Teresa Todd of Point of View Communications, perused the more than 200 entries submitted by students this year, four times the number judged in the 2011 inaugural contest.

Suzan Solomon, Cheryl Laymon, Teresa Todd and Phillip Solomon check out this year's 'Gotta Regatta' essay and poster entries. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

“Last year was the first year that we really try to make a segue into the schools to create awareness for Samuel Dixon and the work that they do and really to tie in, ‘Why the duck?’” Todd said. “Each Dixon duck has a story, so the (direction) we gave to all the school children was that every duck strives for glory and to do its personal best. So the stories and posters tell or illustrate one duck’s quest for glory, and that’s what we are judging today.”

Contest winners will be announced as part of the Rubber Ducky festivities on Saturday.

“We’ll have one winner per school who will receive a trophy, and everyone else will receive participation ribbons.” Todd said. “And from all the entries we will randomly select one teacher to receive a $200 cash grant for their classroom. That goes over wildly, as you can imagine.”

“We thought by reaching out to the teachers and to the kids would be a great way for them to get involved, and it turned out to be just wild last year,” Laymon said. “The stories the kids come up with are just so creative and so interesting. They would start out with this lonely little duck swimming in the pond who lost his mother, and swam around until finally a turtle came along and guided him toward the shore. He got up on the shore and found his mother. Or the duck was flying along with his brothers and sisters and got lost and the mother came by and found them again. Many stories started out kind of sad or troubled but they all had happy endings. So, I’m really looking forward to reading the entries coming in this year. The kids get really excited about it.”

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Laymon said the ducks racing in Saturday’s regatta are quite special.

“They are professional racing ducks and they race all over the United States and now they’re here for us in Santa Clarita,” she said. “There is an organization called GAME, which is Great American Merchandise and Events, located in Phoenix. We have to talk to them and convince them that we are worthy to have their professionally trained ducks come here to race. Those ducks will go to Chicago, Rochester, New York, and up to Oregon before coming to Santa Clarita. They are in training for our race, so by the time they get here they are in top condition, their feathers are all neatly folded back, their little beaks are pointed forward, their feet are ready, and they are just at their peak.”

Once the flock of rubber ducks arrives in town, Laymon said, “We polish them up and assign them their racing numbers then we get them already to go to the race.”

Laymon offered a preview of how the regatta will play out.

“On Saturday, we will have a waterway at Bridgeport Park, so the ducks will start at the end of that waterway the gate, be lifted and will float frantically toward the finish line as fast as their little webbed feet can take them,“ she said. “There will be three heats in the race, and the winners of each one of those heats will join the potential winners circle. Then those winners will go in the final regatta.

“The winners of the big regatta itself that go through the finish line are captured and brought over to the winners table, and a little number pasted on the duck’s bottom helps us determine who the sponsor of that adopted duck is,” Laymon said. “That winner, the first one through, wins the $2,500 Southwest gift certificate. So it’s going to be really nice for somebody. We have all kinds of prizes for others as well. The various vendors coming that day have all contributed prizes. We got judo lessons, piano lessons, runners’ clothing -- about 35 prizes that we will be giving out. So it’s going to be fun and a lot of people are going to go home with a nice prize.

“And of course we have fabulous sponsors, like KHTS, who have been busy promoting this event from July on and we are very grateful for the kind of community support we get for the Rubber Ducky Regatta,” she said.

Festivities at Bridgeport Park begin at 11:30 with a special ceremony honoring SCV-based Olympics medal-winners Alysia Montaño, Lashinda Demus, David Smith and Anthony Ervin. Santa Clarita-based 2012 Olympic athletes have been invited to participate. The races start at noon.

The annual Rubber Ducky Festival, aka the Rubber Ducky Regatta, is SDFHC’s signature fundraising event, providing patient care funding throughout the year.

Race ducks for this year’s event are still available for adoption in advance of the race online at www.duckrace.com/scv.

Rubber ducks start at $5 per duck, making the event affordable for everyone. Other adoption opportunities include Quack Family (five ducks plus one free duck for $25); Quacker’s Dozen (10 ducks plus two free ducks for $50) and Duck Flock (20 ducks plus four free ducks for $100).

In addition to games, vendor booths and the Olympic athlete ceremony, the event features free admission, ample parking, gourmet food trucks, activities and entertainment.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich will serve as this year’s Honorary Chairman. Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar and Janice Murray, host of “The Non-Profit Spotlight Show” on KHTS AM-1220, will co-host the event as Masters of Ceremonies. CBS/KCAL news anchor Sandra Mitchell returns as the celebrity guest. Matt Gunderman with Boston Scientific serves as chairman of the Rubber Ducky Festival Committee.

All proceeds from this event go toward patient care at SDFHC, which offers affordable, quality primary health care for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. SDFHC makes a special effort to serve the uninsured and underinsured.

This year’s sponsors are Boston Scientific, SCV Rotary, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Point of View Communications, SOS Entertainment, C.A. Rasmussen Inc., Hands On Santa Clarita, Andel Engineering and Burrtec Waste Industries. 

Media partners for this year’s event include KHTS AM 1220; The Signal; The Magazine of Santa Clarita and elite Magazine; Santa Clarita Living Magazine and Canyon Country Magazine; SCVTV; Smart Shopper; Inside SCV Magazine; Our Valleys Magazine; and Edwards Outdoor Advertising.

SDFHC operates three health centers in the Santa Clarita Valley — Canyon Country Health Center, Val Verde Health Center and Newhall Health Center — as well as outreach sites at College of the Canyons and California Institute of the Arts. SDFHC offers a full range of health care services — physicals, immunizations and vaccines, screenings and diagnostic tests, well baby care, and family planning — to those who may not seek health care elsewhere. Patients pay based on their income. In the past year, SDFHC provided service for 11,000 patient visits.

About Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, Inc.
SDFHC was established in 1980 and named for long-time Val Verde resident and minister, the late Reverend Samuel Dixon.  As the only non-profit health center founded and based in the Santa Clarita Valley, SDFHC serves the greater Santa Clarita Valley and is governed by a board of directors, all of whom are Santa Clarita residents. The mission of SDFHC is to enhance wellness by providing quality primary health care services and health education to unserved and underserved residents, with a special emphasis on serving the uninsured. Easily accessible services are available for the entire family in both English and Spanish.

Medi-Cal, Blue Cross and Healthy Families are all accepted, and a sliding fee scale is offered, keeping health care affordable for all. SDFHC is supported by countless individuals as well as corporate sponsors who help make affordable health care possible. Tax-deductible contributions are welcome. Health services are available at the Val Verde Health Center (661-257-4008), the Canyon Country Health Center (661-424-1220) and the Newhall Health Center (661-291-1777).

For more information, visit www.sdfhc.org.