For the last two years, Dinneh Estrada has had Baby-Duckness thrust upon her.
The 12-year-old Huntington Beach resident volunteered — kind of — to be the mascot at last year's Duck-A-Thon, an annual event that raises funds for AltaMed's Huntington Beach Community Clinic.
The organizers already had a Papa Duck mascot who walked the pier during the event and posed for pictures with children, so when they decided to add a Baby Duck, Dinneh quickly got the part. Considering that her mother, brother, sister, aunt and grandparents have all worked on the Duck-A-Thon, she wasn't surprised, but she was happy to chip in.
"They were wondering if there could be a Baby Duck," said Dinneh, who is home-schooled. "I kind of wanted to do it and my grandma kind of volunteered me, so why not?"
There's a chance, though, that Dinneh will get a major reward for her volunteering. On Saturday, thousands of rubber ducks will be dropped off the Huntington Beach Pier, and the first one to reach the shore will net $1,000 for its owner. Dinneh's mother, she said, bought her one duck this year.
She'll have stiff competition, as the Duck-A-Thon team has already sold 1,800 ducks — 300 more than at the same time last year, Chairwoman Carol Speaker said.
The Duck-A-Thon, now in its 19th year, invites residents and companies to buy ducks, which are dumped off the pier by a pair of skip loaders. Whichever duck wins the race depends on luck and the current; Speaker has noted in the past that there's no way to handicap the event.
Participants can buy either baby ducks, which earn $1,000 if they win, or larger "beachcomber" ducks, which sport handmade shell necklaces and garner their owner a three-night stay at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino in Laughlin, Nev., in addition to the prize for first, second or wherever they place in the race.
Regardless of which duck finishes first, the winner is the AltaMed clinic, which served uninsured patients and netted $154,000 from last year's event, according to Speaker.
Three years ago, she said, the Duck-A-Thon raised a record $204,000. Since then, the proceeds have dwindled, which Speaker credits to the recession.
"I think it is the economy, and it's too bad, because just when the need gets greater, the fundraising gets more difficult," she said.
If You Go
What: 19th annual Duck-A-Thon
Where: Huntington Beach Pier, Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway
When: Wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday; Duck Festival (featuring arts and crafts, children's entertainment, vendor booths and more) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Duck race for individuals at 3 p.m. Saturday, for corporations at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: Free to attend; baby ducks are $10 for individuals and $100 for corporations; beachcomber ducks are $20 for individuals and $125 for corporations. Wine tasting is $40 in advance, $50 at the door; VIP tickets $50 in advance, $60 at the door.
Information: http://www.duckathon.org or (714) 500-0382