Rubber ducks to take another swim for charity

Amesbury business owner Coleen Magowan is holding a rubber duck fundraiser for The Pettengill House.BRYAN EATON/Staff photo

AMESBURY — Coleen Magowan is on a mission to make sure every local kid goes to school with a new pair of shoes, and she has the rubber duckies to back her up.

Magowan is the owner of Eighteen Friend Street, a store featuring locally made art and clothing, and usually spearheads a local fundraiser each month.

She has also spent the past three summers working with The Pettengill House to buy new shoes for children to wear when they go back to school in the fall.

An Amesbury-based Jenga game raised more than $3,000 to buy new shoes in 2017, but Magowan was able to raise her game even more last summer when she got ahold of hundreds of rubber ducks from the Amesbury Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club used to race the ducks down the Powow River as a fundraising event for many years, but recently discontinued the practice.

“A lot of communities have stopped doing this because you never get them all back,” Rotarian Cathy Toomey said. “Some of them ended up getting all the way out into the Merrimack (River).”

The ducks were stored in the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce’s Market Square office but Magowan knew she had a better use for them last summer.

For $10 a pop, people could “buy” a numbered rubber duck that was dumped into a pool with the rest of the flock. A number of items, including Boston Red Sox tickets, were donated to the cause and the winners were then picked from the lot, live on Facebook.

“Last year, we had the kids swim in the pool while we did it,” Magowan said. “They were grabbing the ducks and giving them to us.”

The duck grabbing netted The Pettengill House roughly $5,000.

Magowan said she is ready for another round this summer and has already seen more than 500 ducks spoken for.

“I love to do fundraisers. It’s my thing,” she said. “So many people have helped me with so many things over my lifetime, so I really want to give back. This year, my goal is $7,000. We are going to kill it, we are going to do it.”

Magowan said more than 200 of Eighteen Friend Street’s artists, including Paul Fortier and Tom Barrasso, have donated their work to the raffle and she has also enlisted the help of the local Supercuts, which donated a gift basket.

“We gave away thousands of dollars in raffle items last year,” Magowan said. “Almost every business that saw it, donated to it. We are very lucky. Every time we have a fundraiser, (Fortier) says, ‘OK, take down that $600 print and raffle it off.’ So this year, we are raffling off two of them and The Ale House and The Barking Dog have also given us gift certificates.”

Magowan said she remembers a year when she was unable to buy her children new shoes for the first day of school. She said she never wanted her family, or anyone else’s family, to go through that again.

“The look on my daughter’s face when I told her we weren’t going to be able to get her new shoes before school is something I will never forget,” Magowan said. “It’s a big deal for kids to go to school with new shoes and a new backpack and whatever. If we can stop one parent from having to look at their kid and tell them they aren’t getting shoes, it is worth it.”

Rather than accept donations of shoes that may not fit or meet a child’s approval, Magowan and her husband, Jeff Bartel, have been working with The Pettengill House to buy gift certificates to Famous Footwear so children can pick out their own.

Older children receive $50 gift cards and younger children get $35 cards.

Anyone interested in taking part in the raffle can stop by Eighteen Friend Street – at 18 Friend St.

Toomey said she was delighted to hear Magowan was willing to give the Rotary’s ducks a new home.

“You would not believe how much room those ducks take up,” Toomey said. “And what (Magowan) is using them for is amazing. I really need to talk her into joining Rotary.”

The Eighteen Friend Street Facebook page:

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.