Tag: nonprofit

Rubber Duckies Raise Funds for the Boys & Girls Club of Austin

By Jamie Balli, Breanna Luna, Briana Franklin and Silvana Di Ravenna

It was a cold, Saturday morning as rain covered the empty streets of downtown Austin. The city seemed to be sleeping but under Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, commonly referred to as “The Bat Bridge” by Austinites, the very first Austin Duck Derby was taking place.


A boat filled with VIP spectators awaits the start of the Austin Duck Derby 2014 . The event Benefitted the Boys & Girls Club Foundation. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

At the event, several people walked around sporting yellow duck-beak whistles while others were dressed in duck-themed attire. The event also featured a duck mascot available for pictures, dancing, and entertainment.

The Austin Duck Derby, held on Nov.15, launched a mass of more than 10,000 yellow rubber ducks into Lady Bird Lake. The ducks raced to the finish line to win prizes for their adopters. The ducks, which were bombarded into the water from the top of the bridge, marveled the kids and parents that happily awaited near the shore, bundled in hats and furry coats.

Besides the colorful spectacle that the event provided, which also included face painting, hula hoopers and live music, the purpose of the race had a serious goal in mind: to raise much needed fundings for the Boys and Girls Club Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and provides assistance to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

Every year, over 12,000 kids (and over 1,700 each day) are nurtured and taken care of in 22 welcoming Austin locations, which provide hope and opportunity to children ages 6 to 18. The centers offer various classes and activities including leadership development, arts, health and recreational sports. The club relies on volunteers who offer their time as coaches, tutors and activities assistants.


Kelly St. Julien, the East Austin Boys & Girls Club Director, said that all the funds for the Austin Duck Derby go to the Boys & Girls Club Foundation of Austin. They use funds to support programs in the clubs and to cover the large amount of expenses.

“At clubs, our biggest expense is payroll of staff and supplies. We have a lot of overhead in terms of consumables like paint, crayons, pencils, paper, basketballs, jump-ropes, and everything you can think of that kids like to play with. There are a lot of kind people in Austin who donate, but we need things on a regular basis,” St. Julien said.

At the Boys & Girls Club in East Austin, funds raised go towards drum sets, pool tables, ping pong tables, marbles, basketballs, and school supplies for classes taught by instructors. When they are not in class learning, children are able to play sports and games with other children.

11-year-old Sanoya, a member of the East Austin club, said that her favorite part of going to the Boys & Girls Club is the extracurricular activities.

“I like playing ping pong when I come to the club because it’s really fun,” Sanoya said.

Gina Hill, the Special Events Chair for the Boys and Girls Club Foundation, mentioned at the event that this was the first time the Duck Derby has benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of Austin. The Duck Derby races, which have been going on for 26 years, have been used during similar fundraisers across the nation in other cities for the Special Olympics and food banks.

A dancing duck was at the event to groove to the music. Several attendees took pictures and danced with the duck. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

“We are very excited to have raised 10,000 ducks and about $50,000 total in this effort today. This money goes into the programs that help the clubs kids. We hope that the event also helps raise awareness for the Boys and Girls Club of Austin,” she said.

The event was sponsored by more than 35 local national and local business, which provided prizes for the race. Sponsors included Amy’s Ice Cream, Whole Foods and the Austin Fire Department.

Participants had the opportunity to “adopt” a racing rubber duck for $5 dollars with the chance of winning anything from a round of golf at Palmer Lakeside Golf Course to a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.

Andrew Garvin, who used to attend the Boys and Girls Club during his youth and currently does PR and Consulting on his own, became this year’s official promoter and face of The Austin Duck Derby.

He decided to participate in the race when Gina Hill herself invited him to join in at a different event. He said that the experience was the perfect opportunity to give back to an organization that did so much for him.

Andrew Garvin, the official promoter and face of the Austin Duck Derby, stands near the duck race and takes observations of the event’s success. Garvin used to attend the Boys & Girls Club during his youth and hopes to give back as much as possible to the organization in order to help other children who are in similar situations that he faced growing up. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

“If it wasn’t for the Boys and Girls Club I wouldn’t be where I am today. I lived in a low-income house and we didn’t have a basketball court or gym equipment, computers, assistance nor tutoring. The club gave us a place to be and it was a good social setting for kids that didn’t have that opportunity outside of class or outside school,” Garvin said.

According to St. Julien, the Austin Duck Derby is a way to get the entire community involved while informing them of what the club does. It is also a fun event that is easy to take part in.

“We really wanted to make our fundraising more accessible to everyone. Only so many people can attend our Boys and Girls Club spring luncheon, our fall gala, and our golf tournament. The duck derby serves a dual purpose of getting the word out about who we are to people who might not know us while allowing people to support us, and culminate that in a fun way,” St. Julien added.

Duck Derby Video from Briana Franklin on Vimeo.



Art studio hosts gala to inspire artists with disabilities

Austin nonprofit educates community on health benefits of an insect diet

By: Faith Daniel, Cheyenne Matthews-Hoffman and Nataly Torres

Before you grab the fly swatter and aimlessly chase your insect target, think about the little critter that you’re about to swat. A bug’s life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Bugs typically meet their fate at the sole of your wandering shoes or by being showered with insecticides. Creepy crawlies are feared by many, but are mostly considered to be gross. We eat gummy worms, so why not consider eating the real thing?

Robert Nathan Allen was a recent college graduate, managing a local bar in Austin when his mother sent him a video on the sustainability and health benefits of eating insects as a joke. Intrigued by entomophagy, the consumption of insects as food, Allen researched the practice and reached out to entomophagists worldwide. Blown away by the benefits of eating insects, Allen wanted to be the first person in Austin to have bugs on the menu. Although that particular idea didn’t pan out, he spent the next year and a half hatching the idea for Little Herds.

Just like other food products in Austin, one can purchase locally grown insect meals.

Just like other food products in Austin, one can purchase locally grown insect meals.

Allen may not have been the first person to have crickets and larvae on menus around the city, but he did see the need for an educational advocacy group. Austin lacked a nonprofit that could provide the community with education and transparency on eating insects, but while also focusing on how they are raised, processed and used in food. “Not only do we want to assure that they’re healthy, hygienic, clean and sustainable, but we also want you to see how you can take cricket flour and turn it into something in your own kitchen,” says Allen.

There was no doubt in Allen’s mind when deciding where to plant and grow his project. Known for its interest in nutrition, sustainability and love for all things weird, Austin was the perfect place to get the ball rolling. Allen saw that Texas’ capital city is very progressive and forward thinking, and thought that Austin would be more likely to accept the practice of insect eating.

He also spent a great deal of time finding the perfect name to suit his bugged out venture. “Little Herds ended up being the one that had the best fit for what we were doing in terms of focusing on the education of edible insects, but also really focusing on children’s education. It has a great dual meaning there — little herds of insects and little herds of kids eating the insects,” says Allen.

Little Herds was incorporated in June 2013 and received their 501(c)(3) that December.

Still in its infancy stage, Little Herds is focusing on educating the community through various programs. The nonprofit focuses on the younger Austinites- children. Little Herds works hand-in-hand with schools, museums and farmers markets to educate the community on entomophagy by planning various educational programs. Oftentimes, the nonprofit will have events geared towards children that allow them to experiment with insects in the kitchen. Little Herds believes that it’s important to reach out to the younger generation because if they can adopt insects into their diet, they will be more likely to pass it on to their children. The nonprofit partners with local chefs to ensure that the meals are delicious and nutritious.

Little Herds isn’t trying to sugarcoat the idea that people are eating bugs. Being upfront and letting people know and understand what they are eating is important. “The best way to get over that psychological taboo isn’t to hide it or turn it into something that it’s not. It’s to be point blank with people about what they’re eating,” says Allen.

Delicacies such as this were presented during the event, made by professional and educated chefs.

Delicacies such as this were presented during the event, made by professional and educated chefs.

When you inform people about the health benefits and its sustainability and that most of the world eats them, it reduces their fear and hesitation to try the edible critters. “When you present them in an approachable, traditional and normal way, they don’t have a problem giving it a try,” says Allen.

With almost 2,000 edible species in existence, insects provide health benefits greater than those provided by traditional meat sources. Insects tend to be higher in calcium, zinc and protein and are low in cholesterol and fat. Hormones and antibiotics aren’t used when raising insects. Unlike with other animals, there is no risk of crossover diseases with insects. An insect diet proves to be healthy for humans, but is also beneficial for Mother Earth. Raising and harvesting insects uses very little land, water and feed.

“This is something that people can grow in their backyard, anywhere in the world. Even if you’re in drought conditions, disaster conditions, this is a protein source that’s healthy and you can grow with very little input,” says Allen.

By 2050, there will be an estimated nine billion people on the planet. At this rate, there won’t be enough food to sustainably feed that many mouths. “We can take insects and create these foods that can really help relieve famine and malnourishment in areas all over the world. It’s something that could have a long shelf life. It’s something that can be processed easily and cheaply and won’t lose all that nutritional density,” says Allen. Incorporating insects into one’s regular diet is an economically approachable, low-tech solution.

Little Herds is working with businesses and government agencies to sure that the public is properly educated about where to get their insects and how to prepare them. Eventually, their hope is to start a movement and share this practice with the rest of the country.

With organizations like Little Herds in the picture, maybe people will be less bugged out to try insects.