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Race gets ducks in a row for good cause

Joshua Battenberg, 17, of East Moriches, reacts as

Joshua Battenberg, 17, of East Moriches, reacts as rubber ducks come to a stand still during a rubber duck race to benefit Camp Pa-Qa-Tuck in Center Moriches. (July 13, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Close to 7,000 yellow rubber ducks, primed for the day's big race, bobbed against a starting line Saturday on a stretch of Mill Pond in Center Moriches.

A small crowd, many of whom had paid a $10 race entry fee to root for a duck while helping a Center Moriches charity and possibly win up to $1 million, watched from a dock. A race coordinator yanked away the line and the crowd cheered. The ducks didn't move.

Close to an hour later, one of the cute plastic ducks -- with eyes painted black and beaks brushed orange -- was the first fowl to finish.

The 45th annual Duck Race and Barbecue was officially in the books.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Moriches, it raises money for special needs children at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches. Last year's event netted $25,000, and organizers hoped to do the same this year, said Kevin Spellman, the camp's president and chair of the event.

The camp receives no government funding for the three dozen counselors and other staff, said Bridget Costello, the camp's executive director, so fundraisers like Saturday's are particularly important.

The chance to help those less fortunate while possibly cashing in was a lure to many who paid the entry fee. Contestants were given a number attached to a corresponding duck. The first three to finish, with numbers that were picked meant prizes of up to $1,000. However, if a contestant picked a duck that finished first or 10th and that number matched the numbers held by the prize-insurance company, they would win $1 million. Event officials will announce Sunday whether there was a $1 million winner.

Bryan Burrowes, of Manorville, said before the race he would take "a shopping spree at Guitar Center" if he won.

Stephanie Zebroski of Riverhead knew her chances of winning anything were slim to none.

"To help children? Absolutely," she said when asked what brought her to the pond on a sticky day. "That's why we're here."

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