To the Editor:
Congratulations to Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra's new president, Josh Hull. (Aug. 24). His desire for more fundraising is commendable. Rotary's members give generously of their time for so many worthy causes.
Environmental sustainability is a national goal of Rotary Clubs, and to that end, I propose that Mr. Hull replace the "Rubber Ducky Regatta" fundraiser with an equally successful initiative that does not involve dumping 3,000 toxic and non-biodegradable plastic ducks (not rubber) into a major public waterway.
This fundraiser originated at a water park. Now, a dump truck empties the ducks from the Palm Valley Bridge into the Intracoastal. Although we're assured that kayakers retrieve every duck, the dumping of a large quantity of plastic into the ICW does not send the right message to a population in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis of staggering proportions.
The event puts wildlife at risk if tide and wind work against the volunteers and even one plastic duck escapes. Studies show that 39% of manatees and 52% of sea turtles had consumed plastic. Both exist in the ICW and are threatened or endangered. Also of concern is the message that is sent to young people witnessing thousands of plastic ducks dumped into our waterway. What if very young children think this spectacle makes it okay to put plastic toys in the waterway or any body of water? Children learn by example.
It’s time to create a new tradition. Since the Ducky Regatta was originally promoted for the Learn To Read program, how about a fundraiser that celebrates children's books and the characters in them? Imagine one day a year where everyone in our county — young and old — dresses up as their favorite character in children's literature? County commissioners, teachers, everyone! THAT would grab attention for Learn To Read and get young people excited about reading. Volunteers could sell ballots for people to cast as many votes as they’re willing to buy for best costume. From what I've read, it's the honor student volunteers who have made the Ducky Regatta event such a success. They could be equally successful selling something other than plastic ducks.
As the president of a nonprofit myself, I know that every fundraising dollar is hard-earned. Nevertheless, I ask Mr. Hull to please consider the world our children will inherit. With Rotary's exceptional organization and passionate volunteers and partners, I believe they can top their fundraising record without putting wildlife at risk and sending the wrong message to young people about plastics in our environment.
President, Save Guana Now
Soil and Water Conservation District representative
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