If you’ve seen Mark Gross around town, carrying some palm-sized rubber duckies to give away to passersby, and you’ve wondered what was happening, you’re not alone. The ducks are becoming synonymous with Mark’s role as a local rotarian, and the rotary club’s (rubber) duck race is quickly catching on.
“People know me, they know me as the duck man,” Mark told the Journal in a conversation about the event. And it’s true. Mark is working hard on behalf of the Northport Rotary Club to promote its largest fundraiser of the year, the Northport Duck Race and can be seen walking up and down Main Street with duck race signs, a bin of little duckies and one big yellow duckie inflatable that sits at the farmers’ market every Saturday morning. It’s all to promote an event that raises thousands of dollars for local initiatives that have a big impact.
The Rotary Club, Mark said, is Northport’s best kept secret, but they don’t want to be a secret anymore. “We’re here as a dedicated pool of 30-plus members, sharing our skills and talents, and more importantly, our dedication to service,” he said.
Last year, the duck race raised about $30,000 for charity; this time around, Mark and the team are hoping to raise even more, all while having a fun-filled family event in the Village. The rotary’s slogan, “Buy a duck, make a difference,” hints at the event’s purpose, which is to benefit organizations doing really special and inspiring work within our community.
One such organization is Gift of Life International, a rotarian-based organization that has helped over 40,000 children from 80 countries receive treatment for heart disease. Most recently, the Rotary Club of Northport sponsored a five-year-old girl from El Salvador named Carmen, who had a life-threatening heart condition that required an interventional catheterization procedure.
In addition to their work with international organizations, much of the rotary’s contributions are right here in the Northport-East Northport community. “We assist with the Northport High School student-run pantry, as well as scholarships for the students,” Mark explained. “Just last month, we were a proud sponsor of the Relay for Life in Northport through the American Cancer Society. We also help Long Island’s Breath of Life Pregnancy Center, whose mission it is to help expectant moms during pregnancies and deliveries.”
With money raised from the duck race, the rotary also donates to Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding programs for individuals with disabilities and other populations in need of assistance, such as survivors of abuse, the military and the impoverished.
The Rotary supports Camp Pa Qua Tuck, which benefits people with special needs on Long Island and beyond, and a number of other local programs, including Students for 60,000, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the American Legion, and Kids Need More, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of children, families and young adults coping with cancer and life-threatening illness.
This summer’s duck race is on Sunday, July 17 at 12pm, at the very end of Main Street where the road meets the harbor. You can purchase a duck for $50 and it will be entered into one heat of the race. Each heat will include up to 300 ducks; first, second and third place winners of each heat will receive prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500, respectively. The reward, however, is really your contribution to the benevolent work of the Northport Rotary and the impact these funds have on people within our community and beyond.
You can purchase a duck on the Rotary website or at the Northport Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 8am-12:30pm. If you see Mark, thank him for his efforts and don’t forget to bring home a rubber duckie!