BYS anniversary celebration a success despite rain

Monday, September 15, 2003
Lori Blalock, coordinator of the Butterfield Youth Services annual rubber duck race, writes down the number of the winning ducks Saturday afternoon. Allen Simmons, who was one of the original boys to stay with Tom Butterfield at the East Ranch, picked up the ducks as they came through the finish-line tube while Blalock's son, Brandon, waited to see who had adopted the winning ducks.

Saturday's rain may have kept some people away from the annual Butterfield Youth Services barbecue, quilt auction and rubber duck race, but an estimated 300 to 400 supporters still came to help celebrate the facility's 40th anniversary.

Larry Arrowood, director of business operations, said $12,000 was raised during the day. The funds will be used for continuing and improving BYS youth programs.

The quilt auction had to be moved indoors at the East Ranch because of the rain, but, somewhat ironically, precipitation held off during the duck race. It did not rain again until after the duck race winners were announced.

Don Blackwell, assistant fire chief for Marshall, gives the approximately 2,000 rubber ducks some moving power by spraying them with a fire hose. Matt Van Vactor (left), director of the BYS therapeutic foster care program, also helped coordinate the race.

Approximately 2,000 ducks raced across the Marshall Aquatic Center pool while Don Blackwell, assistant fire chief for Marshall, sprayed them with a fire hose. The ducks, sponsored individually or by the half dozen, dozen or flock of 100, were adopted by supporters from more than 15 states.

Coming in first place was one of the half dozen ducks in Betty Lou Gowman's "quack pack." A resident of Brookings, Ore., Gowman said she has yet to visit BYS because she lives so far away, but she has been a supporter of the facility for several years. She was excited to hear she would be receiving the diamond and ruby ring from Sturhahn Jewelers in Marshall.

Gowman first learned about Tom Butterfield and his ranch for boys through a story in "Reader's Digest." She said she started to follow along in his life as BYS was founded. She soon became a supporter and has enjoyed reading the newsletters and stories Ellie Butterfield, BYS donor correspondent, sends her in the mail.

"I just love that place," Gowman said. "I just admire someone who is doing that. I just love them to pieces and I think more people should do what they've been doing. I think the race and barbecue event sounds like such a cute idea too."

The second-place winner, Neal Ridenour of Downer's Grove, Ill., will receive a home theater package. Having adopted a "dozen dashing ducks," he said he was surprised at the turnout of the race.

"I don't usually win these things," he said.

Ridenour said he has been a BYS supporter for about 25 years and has attended a few of the annual celebrations in Marshall.

"I got a letter in the mail from Tom Butterfield years ago and it sounded like a good thing to me," Ridenour said. "Then we took the opportunity to visit and we liked what we saw."

Although Ridenour was unable to attend the 40th anniversary celebration, he said he is glad it has become a place for so many youth to find success.

"We've been rather impressed," he said of the staff and services.

The third and fourth place duck race winners, Jerome Jones of Olathe, Kan., and Thomas Pitchford of Columbia, will receive a mini home theater and a handmade quilt, respectively.

Contact Naomi Campbell at