Northwest Colorado Health: Rubber Ducky Race joins Balloon Festival events | CraigDailyPress.com

Northwest Colorado Health: Rubber Ducky Race joins Balloon Festival events

Tamera Manzanares/For Craig Press

Rubber ducks fill the Yampa River during Northwest Colorado Health's 2017 Rubber Ducky Race, which benefits the organization's hospice program. This year's race will begin at 9 a.m. Aug. 4 at the Ranney Street Bridge.

If there were ever a summer Saturday to get up bright and early, it's Aug. 4. That's the first day of the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon festival and a host of activities that go with it, including the Rubber Ducky Race for Hospice.

This is the first year the race, which benefits Northwest Colorado Health's hospice program, is happening in conjunction with the balloon festival. The balloons, set to take off at 6:30 a.m. at Loudy-Simpson Park, will be returning when the Rubber Ducky Race begins at 9 a.m.

It's a win-win for both organizations, said Randy Looper, a member of the balloon festival committee.

"There will be a lot of families there for the launches. They will be there to have fun, and this is an opportunity for them to support hospice at the same time," he said. "We know it will be good for us, and we hope it will be good for Northwest Colorado Health, too."

Hospice provides end-of-life care for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less. The hospice team, including nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, a medical social worker and volunteers, work together to make patients as comfortable as possible. Hospice staff also support family members in their roles as caregivers and through the grief process.

"I love the relationships I build with patients and families," hospice nurse Jacey Wooten said. "That trusting bond is so important. It makes everything I do worth it," she said.

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Northwest Colorado Health has more than two decades of experience caring for hospice patients in the Yampa Valley. The organization cares for and supports all patients and families, regardless of their ability to pay. While some health insurance includes hospice benefits, many costs, such as medications, oxygen, wheelchairs and other equipment, remain uncovered. Insurance does not cover bereavement support for families, which is available for up to a year following a loved one's death. More than 30 Moffat County families benefitted from this service last year.

All proceeds from Rubber Ducky tickets, which are $10, help cover the shortfall. Ticket holders of the first 10 ducks to cross the finish line win cash prizes totally $1,000, including a $500 grand prize. A Rubber Ducky Race will be held in Steamboat Springs on Aug. 25.

"I really hope people come out and support the race," Wooten said. "Just $10 is doing far beyond what they realize. It's so important in helping us continue to do what we do."

It's not hard to find a person whose life has been touched by hospice. Amanda Ott, who works at Northwest Colorado Health in Craig, brought her husband and three children out to catch ducks at the finish line in last year's race. They will take time out of their Saturday to help again this year.

"We have seen first-hand the beautiful and long-lasting impact of home health and hospice nurses," she said. "These men and women are truly a blessing at a time when families need it most."

The Rubber Ducky Race will begin at 9 a.m. at the Ranney Street Bridge. Tickets are available online at northwestcoloradohealth.org/rubberducky or at the balloon festival. You don't need to be present to win. For more information, call Kyleigh Lawler at 970-871-7609.

For a full schedule of family-friendly events at the Moffat County Balloon Festival, visit mcballoonfestival.com.

Tamera Manzanares is marketing coordinator at the Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at tmanzanares@northwestcoloradohealth.org.