Just as Secretariat and Seabiscuit raced their owners’ way to glory, so, too, did a rubber duck named Panda for Caron Rocha.
Rocha’s quacker won the Mass Audubon’s 14th annual Duck Derby Saturday morning and in doing so won her a dinner for two -- anywhere in the world she chooses, with round-trip airfare and two nights’ lodging included.
The race, in which participants sponsor one or more rubber ducks for $10 a head, is a fund-raiser for Mass Audubon’s Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport and South Dartmouth. Almost 6,000 ducks were entered into the race, which raised $53,000 for Allens Pond, organizers said.
Rocha and her 10-year-old son, Jacob, who live in South Dartmouth, volunteered at the event, helping to collect the ducks from Allens Pond after the race, but said they had no expectations of winning.
“I was so excited, it’s just indescribable,” said Jacob. “The chances of winning are crazy, it was just a huge yellow mass floating in the water.”
Their champion fowl, Panda, traversed the 100-yard route in Allens Pond in 5 minutes flat. Many of the other ducks hit land and did not make it to the finish line, Jacob said.
The Rochas plan to use the grand prize to fund a family trip, and first considered Thailand. But reflecting on the auspicious namesake of their winning duck, the family is now contemplating China.
Jacob, who named the duck after his favorite animal, said he hopes to visit some pandas if the family does indeed choose China as their destination. But he would settle for Thailand and seeing elephants, he added.
For the Rochas, Saturday’s race was the perfect capstone to a long relationship with the sanctuary. They’ve entered the race and volunteered annually for the past seven years, and the family participates in the audubon’s junior bird club.
“It’s a very special place, we really love it there,” Caron Rocha said. “Ever since we moved to the area, we’ve been helping.”
The sanctuary includes hundreds of acres of land, 7 miles of trails, and has been home to more than 300 species of birds. The proceeds raised Saturday will support the sanctuary’s programming, including its coastal waterbird program and signature osprey project, which monitors 80 pairs of birds to collect data for scientific research. Healthy ospreys reflect healthy fisheries, estuaries, and bay waters, Allens Pond sanctuary director Gina Purtell said.
“We’re home to a surprising number of unique habitats: beach, wetlands, marsh,” Purtell said. “This really provides the support we need to do trail work and manage the habitats.”
More photos from the event: