The Forsyth County Education Foundation picked out one lucky duck from the Cumming Aquatic Center’s lazy river on Friday, April 2, as part of its annual Duck Dive for Education.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden randomly fished out one of more than 6,000 adopted rubber ducks from the water and announced during a live stream of the event on Friday the winner of the $10,000 grand prize: Bonnie Zarate, a parent from Silver City Elementary School.
Zarate said her kindergartener, Dylan, wanted to donate to the fundraiser, so they ended up adopting just a couple of the ducks in the pool of thousands. She said she couldn’t believe it when she heard from the school’s principal that she and her family had won the grand prize.
“We are still shaky,” Zarate said. “This is such an enormous thing for us.”
She said they had never won anything before, and this prize came at the perfect time for them. Rooms in the family’s home flooded last summer, and after a construction and renovation crew started to make repairs, she and her family ended up having to move into a hotel. They stayed in the hotel and then an apartment until December.
Zarate said the prize was “exactly what [they] needed to pay” for the repairs and cost to move back into their home.
All of the funds raised from the Duck Dive for Education this year will also directly benefit local classrooms, filling the needs of staff and students at the district’s schools and providing some student grants.
Since 2016, the Forsyth County Education Foundation has given around $240,000 in grants for the county’s students. This year, thanks to event sponsors and donations from the community, Foundation Governing Board Chairman Evan Profeta said they will continue to provide grants to students in the fall.
Grant applications will be available to fill out following spring break. More information about the grants can be found on the district’s website, forsyth.k12.ga.us.
During the livestream, Bearden thanked the Cumming Aquatic Center for hosting the event along with sponsors who provided thousands in donations for the Forsyth County Education Foundation.
He also thanked the FCS community for their flexibility this year as the district continued to work within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The word we use in Forsyth County Schools on a daily basis is, ‘pivot,’” Bearden said. “We have to be ready to pivot at any moment, and our students, staff and parents have been incredibly flexible this entire year. It has been a very successful school year because of our entire community.”
Even days after the event, Zarate and Dylan are still jittery with excitement, thinking of what they should do with the remaining prize money after the repairs in their home are paid for. As they thought about it, Dylan came up with a plan that the family is happy with.
“I want to find some people who really, really need this money so we can help change their life,” Zarate recalled Dylan saying to her.
She’s still not sure where they will donate the rest of the prize, but she said since it was Dylan’s idea to adopt a duck in the first place, she will leave some of the decision up to him.