Good Friday came, and the weather was good indeed: Paddington, even, might have risked leaving his trademark raincoat at home – had it not been superglued to his back.
Cruella de Duck, Mario, and Paddington Duck bobbed wing to wing, three standouts in the dozen-or-so ‘mega ducks’ that lined Salford Quays and awaited the claxon.
It was the eighth annual charity duck race organised by MedEquip4Kids, and hundreds lined the water to show their support and compete in the community race.
To most, the corporate race itself was merely a formality; the real winner would be the duck that secures the most coveted prize in north west rubber duck racing – the ‘Best Dressed’ award.
It was in the hands of the good people of Manchester to decide: a wicked dognapping villain; an Italian plumber; or a suitcase-clutching, marmalade-loving, red hat-donning cultural icon?
It was only ever going one way.
MedEquip4Kids partners with corporate sponsors to deliver these ducks and fund medical equipment for NHS children’s hospitals across the country.
The company that delivered Paddington Duck to the adoring children in attendance was Hall Brown Family Law, and they have one employee to thank for bringing home the award.
Victoria Beever, an administrator at the firm, said: “We’ve never actually won the race.
“I put too much costume on the ducks, so they’re not aerodynamic enough to race down the Quay.
“It took probably around eight hours to finish and the most difficult part was the hat and little jacket – I had to hand sew those for the pattern.
“This is our fourth year of supporting the charity, and – because it’s a family event and especially for the kids – we wanted something that was instantly recognisable for the kids this year.
“It just made sense to us; if the kids recognise something, they’ll want to raise more money for the charity because they’ll want to buy the tokens to vote.”
Despite never winning the race, Victoria and Hall Brown have won ‘Best Dressed’ both times they’ve competed – earning plaudits in 2020 for their Emmeline Pankhurst-inspired design.
The 820 kids and parents that competed in the community event – which took place 10 minutes after Bridgestones’ Cruella won the race – were given a token to vote for their ‘Best Dressed’, but it wasn’t just the public that fancied Victoria’s design the winner.
MedEquip4Kids chief executive Ghazala Baig said: “I think my favourite has to be Paddington, followed closely by Mario.
“My favourite part of this day is seeing the children and getting them to understand a little more about how important it is to support charity and other children.
“It’s always really nice because it’s children supporting children.
“Also, I have to say that the corporate ducks are amazing – our corporates go all out, and we’re really grateful for that.”
In the two years since the event was postponed due to Covid-19, the charity has raised more than £16,000 to fund life-saving medical equipment and mental health resources.
But where exactly does that money go?
Hayden Cowap, the charity’s corporate fundraiser and the chief organiser of the duck race, has the answers: “The income that we get from this event goes to the charity and then we decide where the needs are greatest,” he said.
“At the minute we have several different projects all across the country. We’re funding interactive touch screens at Warrington Hospital and safe space cots at Zoe’s Place which is a hospice in Liverpool.
“We also have various pieces of equipment to help disabled children in schools around Bolton.
“Sponsors are a huge part of our funding and we urge everyone to come down for future duck races to get involved.”
If you would like to support MedEquip4Kids’ efforts, you can go to their website to donate or get involved in future projects.