Home is where the heart is. More of a concept than a physical location, home in adulthood is a place crafted to endcap evenings and is colored by one’s core value system. In childhood it’s a locale full of love and familiarity. It’s where first experiences are had and is largely responsible for shaping children’s ideas about the world. Most importantly, the common thread for all these ideas of home is safety. In addition, home is something most take for granted. For some, home is anything but comforting.
In the ‘70s crisis hotlines began to light up with the calls of youth who felt unsafe in their homes. Consequently, Open House was born in 1972 to provide 24-hour telephone services that would help kids talk through problems. Plus, they offered walk-in counseling services and emergency shelter.
“Since its inception, Open House has provided shelter for almost 4,000 individual youth,” Brianne Winterton, social worker and clinical supervisor of the Coastal Horizon Center’s Open House Youth Shelter, says. “However, this figure does not capture the total number of community members who have benefited from these services. Each youth served represents an entire family unit and support system that was helped by the program.”
This Saturday, May 30, Coastal Horizons Center will hold a quack-tastic event at Jungle Rapids Water Park to help raise awareness and funds for their Open House program. Dubbed “Coastal Duck Derby” locals are asked to adopt a rubber ducky for the ultimate in fowl racing. Originally, Coastal Horizons sought 5,000 participants, but after surpassing that goal, they upped the ante in hopes of having 7,000 adopted ducks (in fact, they have their fingers crossed for a possible 10,000 duck finish).
According Jamie Kury Thompson, Coastal Horizons’ development director, the program founds its (webbed) footing a year and a half ago. “When I would be out in the community talking about Coastal Horizons Center, I found that a lot of people did not know that Open House Youth Shelter (OH) was part of our services,” Thompson says. “The team at OH is so passionate about the work they do and really are able to change lives. We wanted to find a unique and fun event that would not only raise funds to support of services, but help educate the community about the incredible work being done right here in Wilmington to help children in crisis.”
The program serves minors aged 6 to 18 and strives to meet basic needs: offer shelter, psychological safety, nutritious food, and clothing. After the necessities are provided, they offer secondary needs, such as free clinical individual and family counseling, academic support, health and wellness activities and programming, and general recreational activities. All services aim to ensure everyone has access to a stable environment during crucial developmental stages.
“Youth are referred for shelter services by school officials, parents and legal guardians, local county Departments of Social Services, mental-health professionals, and other youth-serving organizations,” Winterton explains. “Youth who feel unsafe at home, and those who are homeless or have run away from home, are also able to refer themselves for services. Open House flyers and brochures can be found in school administration offices, in school bathrooms, in other public service agencies, and in public places so that youth in crisis may find them. Open House also has a healthy social-media presence to reach youth through technology in a way that they can easily access and relate with.”
Those interested in entering a contender of their own in the race can head over to www.duckrace.com. Packages include the “Lonely Duck,” which can be adopted for $5; a “Quack Pack,” six ducks for $25; a “Quacker’s Dozen,” 12 ducks for $50; a “Flock of Ducks” 25 ducks for $100; and the “Duck Invasion,” 130 ducks for $500.
The ducks will take their marks at around 7 p.m. Aided by the Amazing Duck Deployment volunteers, the rubber toys will be loaded onto the dry volcano water slide at Jungle Rapids. Once all the ducks are in a row, the water will be turned on, and down the slide and through the lazy river they will go. Each duck will be marked with a number—much like a raffle ticket—and the proud parent of the first-place duck will win $1,000 (duck guardians need not be present to win; though, the duck would surely love the support). The top four finishers also will receive prizes.
Corning, Inc., Castle Branch, Hopkins and Associates, Leanne Quattrucci, P.A. attorney at law, and the social work master’s program at UNCW all have pulled together to adopt flocks of ducks. “All of our teams are competitive,” Thompson says. “Team #QuackAttack, which is made up of quite a few employees and their friends, has already sold over 1,300 ducks! We are so grateful for all our teams.”
In addition to the duck race, the casual summer soiree also will feature libations, music, food, and activities for the kiddies. As well there will be a 5-foot inflatable duck present (named Captain Quackers), primed for photo opportunities. In fact, Thompson notes that unveiling the larger-than-life duck to the children at Coastal Horizons and seeing their faces light up was a moment she won’t soon forget. For Thompson making memories all while supporting a good cause is what it’s all about.
“We plan to do this every year, and I think it will become a very anticipated local event,” Thompson says. “Who doesn’t love a rubber duck? And the spectacle of seeing them race down a water slide is something you do not want to miss.”
Inaugural Coastal Duck Derby
Jungle Rapids, 5320 Oleander Dr.
Saturday, May 30, 6 p.m.