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Getting Their Feet Wet

Posted on Mar 01, 2015 in Special Olympics Florida , March-April 2015 , Duck Race

Duck Olympics benefits the Special Olympics team in Walton County, which has nearly 60 athletes competing in six sports. Photo courtesy Mike Schumacher

Special Olympics Florida: Walton County holds Duck Race fundraiser on Easter Sunday in Seaside By Katie Tammen

Two years ago, a handful of people decided to revitalize Special Olympics in Walton County.

Easter Sunday, they’re inviting the community to see how far they’ve come during the Inaugural Duck Olympics.

“It’s going to be a really great family event,” said Mike Schumacher, one of the parents who led the effort to restart the program in the spring of 2013.

An 80-foot-long lazy river will transform the Lyceum Lawn into a Duck Pond and act as the centerpiece of the fundraising event. A 4-mph current will propel 5,000 yellow rubber ducks around the pool in multiple races for prizes throughout the afternoon. Singer Reid Soria of Autism Sings will also perform at the event.

“We are honored to partner with our merchants and Special Olympics Florida — Walton County in this inaugural event that will help raise funds to improve the quality of life for members of our community and their families,” said Lori Leath Smith, director of public relations and marketing for Seaside Community Development Corp.

The April 5 event is the largest fundraiser the Walton County program has tackled. The presenting sponsor, Duckies Shop of Fun, and South Walton businesses such as YOLO Board, The Donut Hole, The Beach Group, Modica Market, Davis Properties of Northwest Florida, SOFITCO, Emerald Coast Title Services, Trustmark Bank and more have already stepped up with time and money to help the organization. YOLO Board donated a paddleboard as one of the prizes at the Duck Olympics and Duckies purchased the lazy river pool.

“To me, just doing whatever we could for Special Olympics was a no-brainer,” said Bryan Pritchett, owner of Duckies. “Making an investment in that pool meant that they could raise money for years.”

Walton County Director Damien McNeil said they’re hopeful this event will draw people to the program. “We have an ambitious plan to double the number of athletes participating and sports offered by the end of next year,” he said.

Currently 59 athletes ages 8 and up are participating in six sports including the popular paddle board program. Some of those athletes will participate in a demonstration during the event.

YOLO Board co-owner Mitzi Archer said it’s a natural fit to work with Special Olympics. “They just took to it so quickly and so easily,” she said.

For the athletes, any of the sports are life-changing, according to Nancy Simpler who has been involved with the program for about six years. “It teaches them sportsmanship; it teaches them what their abilities are,” Simpler said. “To see the advancement they make with these (sports), it changes your life.”

The event will kick off at noon on April 5 and continue until 3 p.m. It’s free to attend. People interested in volunteering at the event, providing sponsorship or prizes can contact Mike Schumacher at

Ducks adoptions are available for $5 online at A duck adoption will enter your duck into the race for prizes at the event. People will not need to be present to win.