Rubber ducks, food trucks raise money for autistic community

Proceeds help develop 20-acre autism campus, Healthy U Community

By Fernanda Ponce, photojournalist, David Benfield - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Saturday marked the first Rubber Ducks and Food Trucks event to raise money for the development of a 20-acre autism campus, Healthy U Community, to be developed in St. Johns County.

Supporters, families living with autism and the general public gathered at the Jacksonville Landing to cheer on their ducks as they raced on the St. Johns River. Attendees were also treated to activities for children, food and music.

Racing ducks competed for prizes such as tickets to a Jacksonville Jaguars game, an Armada game, a Jacksonville Giants game, a round of golf for four at Sawgrass Country Club; a travel package worth $1,000 or an entertainment package that includes movie tickets and gift cards from local restaurants.

“We sold out of ducks,” Dr. Julie Buckley, founder of the Healthy U Now Foundation said. “Our goal was $10,000. I think we're closer to $15,000. We’re just thrilled.”

As the rubber ducks floated to the finish line, crowds of families cheered them on

The family of 17-year-old Graham Arceneaux came from Austin, Texas, to be part of the event.

"We need to have something line up for his future so he has a productive and happy life," Graham's father said. "You have this large group of autistic adolescents who are going to become adults, and they need a future for themselves."

Beckley said there's a great need for what Healthy U Now is creating.

"To be able to come through intact with some joy and some health, without PTSD, is a huge challenge, and we're trying to meet that challenge," Beckley said.

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