Rain doesn’t dampen duck race in Riverhead

Hundreds came out Sunday for the inaugural Duck Race Festival held at the RISE Life Services Sensory Garden on Sound Shore Road in Riverhead ­— despite early showers. Prior to the rubber-duck race main event, visitors were treated to honey from the RISE hives, music and an auction of art created by members of the RISE Program Without Walls at the on-site classroom.

Much of the money raised from the event will go toward funding a refrigerated truck needed by the RISE Food Pantry, a grocery store-style food pantry open every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the RISE headquarters at 901 East Main St. in Riverhead. The refrigerated truck will be used to deliver food Thursdays and Fridays to nearly 100 individuals, mostly seniors, who cannot make it to the food pantry.

When the races finally began after a brief rain delay, everyone gathered along the banks of the brook that runs through the nearly 2-acre garden. The tiny rubber ducks traveled the brook down to the pool at the bottom of a hill to the finish line where first- through fifth-place winners received prizes.

Among those in attendance were New York State Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright (D-New York City) and John Di Leonardo, anthrozoologist and president of Humane Long Island.

RISE works with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, offers a teen suicide-prevention program and counsels substance misuse and those suffering from addiction. The nonprofit also manages residential homes throughout Suffolk County.

Festivalgoers were able to purchase local honey from bees tended by a RISE staffer. The bees pollinate plants at the sensory garden and the vegetables are harvested to share with residential homes.

“We were delighted that everyone came out to support our various causes,” said Charles Evdos, executive director of Aid to the Developmentally Disabled, Inc. “The food pantry is important because food insecurity on Long Island has increased 300%. We have many of our neighbors and area workers who would go hungry without the food pantry. Purchasing refrigerated trucks will allow us to help even more Long Islanders.”

Contributed by Sylvia King-Cohen, publicist for RISE Life Services