Article of the week: A quackin' fundraiser

22 August 2020

FEATURE | Quacky races 

Maxine Whitmore gives Melita Day-Lewis the inside story of a duck race created to raise funds for the Army

AS pandemic restrictions on sport begin to ease, a quackin’ new event has been launched in New Malden, Surrey: the Ducksbury Races.

Thirty-two small and sixteen large rubber bath ducks are competing in two races at Mallard Park to be crowned Ducksbury’s first winners on either wheels or water. Race organiser Maxine Whitmore said that the ducks were not racing for any special prizes or medals but to raise money for The Salvation Army.

The whole family has been involved in the fundraising fun. Sons Adam and James have helped with race production and filming and Maxine’s husband, Brian, has been busy building the racetrack and operating behind-the-scenes IT.

The ducks race down bespoke lanes created out of guttering. When the smaller, and lighter, ducks struggled to gain sufficient momentum on water, Adam found a solution by providing custom-made Lego cars for each competitor. This led to the creation of the first race, Wacky Wheels.

Wacky Wheels took place two weekends ago in front of Lego and duck-race enthusiasts. Four ducks in peak condition faced each other in eight different heats, with only one winner qualifying for the quarterfinals. The contenders came from a range of work backgrounds, including some more unusual occupations, such as a pirate, jester, fairy, cowgirl, punk rocker, magician and lifeguard.

The heats were categorised into emergency services, entertainers, workers, ‘dressing-up ducks’, ‘odds and ends’, footballers, spotty duck family and ‘space time’, in which, Tim Beak (the first British drake in space), DT (an alien duck), Helen Duckman (the first female duck in space) and baby Rocket Man faced each other. Lifeguard Quacksafe won the grand final, beating fireman Barney by a beak.

The second race takes place on Saturday 29 August and features bigger ducks swimming down water-filled lanes. Each entrant is named after children Maxine works with.

‘I’m a speech and language therapist. I work with children with Developmental Language Disorder in a specialist unit and I wanted to involve them,’ she explains. 

The starting line-up for the water heats is also an eclectic mix of characters, including a bridal party, a judge, an aviator, a spa duck, a jungle duck, and two literary characters: Sherlock Holmes and The Mad Hatter.

Maxine gathered her competitors before lockdown for a school project about occupations, but pandemic-related restrictions closed the school and put the project on hold.

‘During lockdown we were very impressed by Captain Tom Moore with his magnificent fundraising and we thought we would do something similar… I was left with this large number of ducks and I thought I could use them in a different way – to raise money for charity,’ she relates.

So far, the Whitmores have raised almost £1,500, with donations coming from across the world. The family decided to donate the funds raised to The Salvation Army after receiving a newsletter about the Army’s work helping those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘As a family we’ve always been long-term supporters of The Salvation Army because they stand for belief in action… they’re Christians with their sleeves rolled up who get stuck in where the need is,’ enthuses Maxine.

Another source of inspiration was the song ‘A Little Bit Of Love’, written by Graham Kendrick.

‘The song’s message that any little acts of kindness, when added together, can make an ocean of difference… really resonated with me,’ says Maxine.

As well as setting up the duck races, she formed Maxine’s Makaton Choir with 11 other speech and language therapists from the Croydon area, who helped her create a YouTube video where the words of the song are signed using the Makaton language programme, which enables people to communicate through signs, symbols and speech.

‘I wanted to get the message across to as many people as possible,’ explains Maxine.



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