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Rotary Club’s Duck Race inspires generations

This year’s virtual duck race will raise funds for Food4Kids

Even though the rubber ducks won’t be dropped into the river this year, Rotary Club of Guelph-Wellington's annual Canada Day fundraiser is still taking place and inspiring generations to give back to the community.

Martin Van Dam, three-time club president, and his son, Duck Race co-chair David Van Dam, have been working with other club members to plan the annual race, which is in its 32nd year on July 1.

Martin has been a Rotarian for 34 years. David joined in 2003.

David said that while growing up, going to help his dad with events like the duck race, or the old drag boat races, allowed him to see the good things the club does as a community.

“I thought that being a part of a community or self-service club that certainly has great ambitions to assist with the community. … I needed to be a part of something like that,” David said.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s fundraising race will be held in an online format, similar to last year’s event. But that doesn’t stop Martin from reflecting on the splendour of the in-person races.

“It was always down at Riverside Park,” Martin said. “Basically, we sold tickets that had a number on it. The number gets put onto a rubber duck. the rubber duck goes into a net crane that lifts the whole net up, and the ducks drop into the river.”

This year, the Rotary Club is teaming up with Beyond Borders, a program for Grade 12 students that focuses on building a variety of skills like leadership and business, but also gives them a unique learning experience that prepares them for post-secondary education.

Martin’s grandson, and David’s son, Noah, participated in the Beyond Borders program last year and has used his skills to help promote this year’s race through social media engagement.

“I knew that to get the word out within social media a video would be very impactful so I sat down and chatted with Noah,” David said. “He thought it would be a great idea that he could help prepare or create a video for Food4Kids and the duck race.”

In the past, the duck race proceeds would go toward multiple organizations in the community.

Martin said he felt  the pandemic has shown food security is a key issue and the Rotary Club has decided to donate all proceeds from this year’s fundraiser to Food4Kids, a program dedicated to helping children achieve food security.

“When you have a fundraiser, such as the Duck Race you're really giving back,” David said. “Whatever you can give is very impactful for those that don't have, and not a lot of people are aware what Food4Kids is all about. When we decided that was going to be the charity of choice this year, I felt that we needed to get the word out, promoted as much as possible.”

Both Martin and David said they’re proud that the duck race and giving back to the community has become a generational affair for their family.

“I’ve always hoped to raise my children or give them an example of why we give back to our community,” David said. “I think it's important for them to understand, you know, some people have less and whatever you can do to promote and get back that's only beneficial to your community.”

For Duck Race tickets, visit