Pam Leiken received a great return on a $5 investment: a 2002 Sonoma truck.
Donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation by Michael Hohl Motor Co. of Carson City, the truck was first prize in the Great Truckee River Duck Race and is valued at $20,000.
A Carson City resident, Leiken purchased one yellow duck at the Carson City Mall June 1, giving her a shot at the prize.
The foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and this fund-raiser provides the money needed to continue those efforts.
"I know a child who benefited from the program," Leiken said. "It's such a worthwhile effort, that I decided to buy a duck."
One of 15,000 contenders, her duck won that race Aug. 24. The duck race started just upstream from Reno's Arlington Street bridge and extends about one-quarter mile down the Truckee River.
Recent transplants from Novato, Ca., Leiken and husband, Ron, an environmental consultant, were in the market for a truck, but they've never owned one.
"I keep thinking, someone made a mistake and they're going to change their minds," Leiken said with an easy smile.
A teacher in Bay Area school systems for more than 20 years, Leiken recently embarked on her second career, mom to 5-year-old Michael, a kindergartner at Fritsch Elementary School.
"I didn't make it to the race this year," Leiken said. "But I'm going to enter next year and this time, I'll be there."
Susan Stinchfield, president of the Make-A-Wish board of directors, said this is one of the group's biggest fund-raisers, in part because it involves the community. The effort nets about $35,000 for their cause.
"But every year, the cost of a wish goes up," she said. "They average about $8,000 now and local efforts are critical."
She said a heart-warming and glorious assortment of wishes were granted this year, 36 in all, including shopping sprees and trips to Disney World. One girl flew to Hawaii to swim with the dolphins and the 500th wish was granted to a girl named Katy, who went on a fishing trip to Alaska.
Children are referred to Make-A-Wish by physicians, family members, friends or themselves. They range in age from 2 to 18 and all have some type of life-threatening illness.
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