Thursday, October 28, 2021

Family Fun at YMCA Healthy Kids Day & Duck Derby

At last year’s event, Marco Island’s Fire-Rescue Department sends the plastic ducks on their way.

At last year’s event, Marco Island’s Fire-Rescue Department sends the plastic ducks on their way.

By Don Manley

The Greater Marco Family YMCA will again present a wide-ranging assortment of fun activities, and healthy living information for the entire family at its annual Healthy Kids Day and Duck Derby.

Set for April 30 at the organization’s Sand Hill Street campus, the dual events are held back to back, starting with Healthy Kids Day, which runs from 8 AM to 12:30 PM, when the 21st Annual Duck Derby fundraiser begins.

Healthy Kids Day is a national YMCA initiative that mixes fun activities with education and information designed to promote healthy lifestyle choices among youth. The Duck Derby benefits the facility where it’s held, the Y’s Miss Dottie Weiner Aquatic Center, as well as the organization’s aquatics programs.

Despite the name, “there’s a little bit of something for everybody, young and old,” Joel Frysinger, the Y’s program coordinator, said of Healthy Kids Day.

The event will include a bounce house, food and refreshments, a book fair, games and relays,  preschool fitness exercises, a “Bikes for Tykes” giveaway and free swim lessons for all.

DJ Gustavo will provide music by the pool, which will be open to the public throughout the day.

Starting at 8 AM, there will be interactive exercise class demonstrations for all ages, such as Zumba, karate, pickleball and power yoga, led by their respective Marco Y instructors, and information on Y programs. There’ll be an 11 AM start for Healthy Kids Day’s health fair, which will including 30 vendors “that support healthy living and lifestyles for adults and children,” said Charlene Garcia, the Y’s school-age (after-school program) coordinator and chief organizer for Healthy Kids Day.

The roster of vendors will include Marco’s police and fire-rescue departments, The Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Walgreens, the Collier County Health Department tooth fairy, and the United Arts Council of Collier County, which will conduct art projects for children.

Healthy Kids Day’s vendors will also include:

• Drug Free Collier’s “Hidden In Plain Sight” traveling exhibit and program which educates parents on recognizing “unfamiliar hazards” and “hiding places” in a simulated teen’s bedroom.

• Free eye exams from Frantz EyeCare.

• Free dental exams from RMC Health and Smiles.

• Boating safety information from the U.S. Coast Guard.

• A “goody bag” filled with free samples to the first 100 participants.

• Free Healthy Kids Day t-shirts to the first 55 children to attend.

The vendors

YMCA swim team members perform during the Star Spangled Banner at last year’s Duck Derby.Photos by Don Manley

YMCA swim team members perform during the Star Spangled Banner at last year’s Duck Derby.Photos by Don Manley

will be housed in the Y’s $1.2 million, 5,750 square-foot, youth development center, which opened last October.

Fruit kabobs will be prepared in the youth development center’s kitchen by participants in the Y’s Wonder Girls program who will walk around, passing them out to the crowd. Wonder Girls is an after-school program designed to empower eighth grade girls to adopt healthy lifestyles.

“It’s just a fun, family day for everybody to come out and enjoy,” said Garcia.

The Duck Derby was started by Dottie “Miss Dottie” Weiner, who started the Y’s “Learn to Swim” classes in 1972 and directed it until 2012.

Ducks can be purchased for $15 for one or $25 for two. Celebrity ducks are $30 apiece, as are the Corporate ducks, which can be kept by the purchaser. A pairing of one Corporate and one Celebrity ducks can also be purchased for $50 and kept by the buyer after the event.

The ducks are entered in three separate races, but unlike past years, it won’t be fire-rescue department personnel propelling the ducks down the pool with a fire hose at this year’s races, which begin at 1:30 PM. Instead, it will be members of the Y’s swim team who provide the propulsion.

“There’ll be a basket with ducks and their job will be to swim down and get as many ducks as they can and swim back to the starting line,” said Frysinger, who is coordinating the event. “Whatever swimmer wins, we’ll draw the winning duck out of their basket. We thought we would try something different, add a little excitement and get the kids more involved.”

Swim team members traditionally swim down a lane using a kick-board and return to the start, holding flags aloft as the Star Spangled Banner plays, kicking off the derby. But this year, that segment of the event will have a slight twist to it, one that’s being kept secret, said Frysinger.

“It should be a very cool looking display,” he added.

Also new this year will be the aquatics department’s free swim tests for all children accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Frysinger said the Duck Derby serves not only as a fundraiser, but as a way “to raise awareness of what we do at the pool.”

For more information on Healthy Kids Day and the Duck Derby, or purchasing a duck, visit or call 239-394-9622.

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