Duck race will benefit disabled brothers

(Originally published in the Telegraph on 8/3/08)

JERSEYVILLE - On the evening of Aug. 21, at least 2,000 ducks will float past the marina at Grafton Harbor. But Grafton residents need not worry about bothersome quacking; the ducks are coated not in feathers, but rubber, and are floating for charity.

The Friends of the Skinner Family are raffling rubber ducks for the "Quack Meet" Duck Race. For every $20 ticket purchased, participants will enter a new duck into the race down the Illinois River breakwater. The first 10 ducks and the last slowpoke to cross the finish line will receive one of several cash prizes.

"It's going to be a real exciting event," said Kim Hawkes, Skinner family friend and owner of Beiermann Buick Pontiac GMC Inc. in Jerseyville. "Just to see all those ducks floating down the river is going to be fun."

"It's a lot more fun than watching a ticket get drawn out of a drum," said Mike Steckel, the event's primary organizer.

All proceeds will benefit the sons of Kim and Duey Skinner of Jerseyville. Colten, 16, and Duey Jr., 19, suffer from a rare neuro-muscular disorder known as ataxia telangiectasia, or Louis-Bar syndrome. The disease hinders their ability to walk, which has inspired the community to donate a handicapped-accessible van to the family.

Although the brothers' motorized wheelchairs allow them to travel from classroom to classroom at school, the chairs are too wide for the doorways of their Clay Street residence. Colten and Duey's difficulties with everyday activities prompted several Jerseyville residents to form the Friends of the Skinner Family, a group dedicated to funding the construction of a new house better equipped for the disabled teens.

"I've known the Skinner family for a long time," Hawkes said. "The older the boys get, the harder it is for them to get around."

"It's very disheartening to see a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old crawl," said Kellie Hill, Duey's personal aide. "You're used to seeing toddlers crawl, but not 19-year-old men."

The new residence will be located in the Lakeview Estates development north of Jerseyville, where Don Jr., Don Sr. and Ken Walsh provided 0.7 acres of land at a low cost.

The Friends of the Skinner Family have raised more than $20,000 toward building the Skinners' new house, Hawkes said. The Friends gained $13,600 from their April "Deal or No Deal" event, a fund-raising game based on NBC's hit game show. The group also raised $507 at a Pizza Hut benefit dinner; $1,400 at an estate sale in First Baptist Church of Jerseyville's fellowship hall; $1,200 at a special church concert and $5,000 at the May 30 benefit golf tournament at Wolves Crossing Golf Course. Dow Elementary School students contributed $176 in pencil-and-eraser sales to the cause.

Hawkes said the Friends of the Skinner Family are glad to have contributed thousands already, but they "still need a lot of money."

Spoils for the race's victors include guaranteed $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $150, $100 and $50 prizes, Hawkes said. Participants with the first 10 ducks to finish also have a chance to win $50,000 if their duck's number matches a ticket drawn before the race.

Steckel plans on starting the race at 6 p.m. that Thursday.

"It's pretty unique, and hopefully, people will be interested," he said.

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