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Time to get your ducks in a row

Carmen Musick • Jul 6, 2020 at 5:00 PM

Just when it appeared the COVID-19 pandemic would leave them up a creek with no place to paddle (so to speak), organizers of the popular “Dancing, Dining & Ducks” fundraiser realized the stars of their show don’t need an audience — or dancing and dining, for that matter — to serve their primary purpose.

After all, the thousands of rubber ducks deployed for the annual summer fundraiser are there for two reasons: to raise funds for Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center and to, perhaps, turn their sponsors into ‘lucky ducks’ themselves.

And, though the event will look a bit different this year, neither of those things have changed. In fact, the need for funding may be greater than it’s ever been in the center’s 46-year history.

“A lot of what we do is provide scholarship dollars for families who don’t have the ability to pay for the services they need. With high unemployment and all the challenges people are facing, we think there will be an increase in the need for financial assistance,” said Karen Dale, finance manager and special events coordinator at Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center. “We have never turned anyone away that qualified for financial aid, and we don’t want to start now. Children still need what they need.”

A non-profit organization, the center was founded in 1974 by the Junior League Club and Sertoma Club of Kingsport. The mission of the center is to provide speech and hearing services to residents of the Appalachian region, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

“That’s what these fundraisers help us to do,” Dale explained. Last year, the event raised a little over $22,000 and 2,800 ducks were sponsored. This year, Dale hopes to match that.

She needs the community’s help to make it happen.

WHAT WILL CHANGE

“This year will be a little different for our ducks’ event,” Dale said. “We can still sell the ducks online, but we won’t be able to have the big party we usually have with food and dancing. So, we’re going to put the ducks in a private pool and our master of ceremonies, Preston Ayres from WCYB, is going to draw the winning ducks. We’ll stream it on Facebook Live.”

The big day is Wednesday, July 22, and community members have until noon that day to visit the website at www.kingsportducks.org to sponsor their ducks. The drawing will be a Facebook Live event.

“The more ducks you sponsor, the greater the chances to win,” Dale explained.

Five lucky duck sponsors will walk away with one of the main prizes — three of them cash this year. Grand prize will be $2,500, with $500 for second prize and $250 for third. Two fourth-place winners will also enjoy sweet rewards: one with a gift basket from Chick-Fil-A and one with a ‘tea a week’ for a year from Pal’s.

“In addition to our main prizes, we’ll also have some smaller ones and we’ll draw however many ducks it takes to give away all of the prizes,” Dale said.

WHAT STAYS THE SAME

All proceeds from the virtual duck race fundraiser benefit the Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center. That means each duck represents the hope of hearing and speech to people right here in this region. Community members can provide that by simply sponsoring the ducks.

“Unfortunately, in our region, we have a lot of children who need help,” Dale said. “Imagine not being able to communicate with your child. Communication is everything. If you can’t communicate, your quality of life goes down, even for a child. It’s important they get the treatment they need.”

Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center has been working to provide that for 46 years. During the lockdown, the center’s staff members hustled to get the equipment and training they needed and, within two weeks, were serving patients through tele-therapy. Today, they’re offering a combination of in-person and tele-therapy for their patients.

To learn more about the fundraiser, visit www.kingsportducks.org. To learn more about Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center, visit www.mrshc.org.

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