Duck Duck Jeep movement spreads kindness

For Rob Long, a rubber duck means the world.

When he left work, he found the one sitting on his jeep, said Kimberly Long, his wife. From there he went to meet Long, and together they drove to Newberry to put to sleep their rescue pit bull.

Even after changing his jeep, Kimberly Long said her husband still kept the duck.

“For whatever reason, sometimes these ducks just find their way into the hands of people who need them at that moment and that day,” said Kimberly Long, a Jeep Gladiator owner who works in Gainesville.

Duck Duck Jeep, a kind action where jeeps place rubber anchors on each other’s cars, was created by the Allison Parliament in Ontario, Canada. Since the start in 2020, the movement has taken hold of the United States. On February 7, the Facebook group “Duck Duck Jeep – Florida” had about 16,900 members.

Melanie Reagan, a jeep driver from Palm Coast, Florida, said that the Duck Duck Jeep is a phenomenon that makes people smile, especially after the challenges with COVID-19. Her jeep, called Ascender, is a tribute to her love of rock climbing.

“When you go to your jeep and see a duck, you feel good – even as an adult,” she said.

Melanie Reagan, a jeep driver from Palm Coast, Florida, named her Jeep Ascender after her love of rock climbing. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Reagan)

Jeep owners show their ducks in what Reagan calls the “duck pond”, the dashboard in the vehicle made for sunglasses – a daily reminder of how talented they were at their rubber passengers.

Reagan’s favorite is her Elsa duck, which she got when she took her granddaughter to her first charity event in Tennessee. “Frozen” is her favorite Disney movie, she said, and the subject reminds her of time with her granddaughter.

“I felt like I was probably 5 again,” she said.

Even when she’s not in her car, Reagan has ducks in her purse for others, often trying to match the jeep’s personality with her choices.

But the jeep culture extends beyond rubber ducks. The community has developed its own etiquette guidelines, charity events and clubs. In addition to ducking, Wrangler drivers are known for their infamous Jeep Wave, a two-finger signal that resembles a peace sign aimed at other passing jeeps.

Rebecca Pratt, 52, a nurse at UF Health The Villages Hospital, said she finds herself waving to other jeeps even as she drives her husband’s truck.

“I have to look at myself,” she said, laughing.

For the past year, she has been the owner of a 2002 burgundy, two-door jeep called the Sangria.

One night as she was leaving her 12-hour shift, Pratt received her first duck, which was waiting for her at Sangria’s door handle. Suddenly she forgot all about her day, she said.

“I’m good; I’m alert, she said. “I have a duck.”

After receiving its third rubber duck, Pratt ordered 50 of its own on Amazon. Members of her range include a pink mohawk duck, one with sunglasses resting on her head and another with a panda face.

“It gives me a lot of joy,” she said, adding that she felt compelled to pass on the feeling.

A box of rubber ducks for Duck Duck Jeep
Janelle Townsend has released about 80 ducks. On each tag, she writes the name of her jeep, Hedwig and her city. (Photo courtesy of Janelle Townsend)

The movement continues to become more and more creative, said Janelle Townsend, a jeep owner from Holiday, Florida. She has seen people get duck keychains and ornaments, as well as Jeep matchboxes.

Townsend released about 80 ducks – some St Patrick’s Day and Disney themed – between March and November. With the help of his 8-year-old, Townsend said that they make holes and write tags for the small acts of kindness. Her name and city are clearly written on each one.

Inspired by Harry Potter’s pet owl, Townsend calls his Snazzberry Gladiator Jeep Hedwig. On the hood, a snowy owl sticker can be seen next to the jeep’s name printed in the film series’ popular font.

“It was more stressful than naming my kids,” Townsend said.

Beyond the ducks and the decorations, Townsend said that having a jeep is about belonging to a community that is bigger than herself.

“You can own a Ford Mustang,” she said. “You can own a Hyundai, but that community does not do anything remotely like the Jeep community is.”

Owning a jeep gives John Chapman, a retired fire chief and current pastor in St. Louis. The Augustine area, a sense of brotherhood. His Gator-blue Jeep named Andie, short for Star Trek’s Andorian, is his third Wrangler.

In November, Chapman and other “Duck Duck Jeep – Florida” members teamed up to send rubber ducks to team member Nicky Sorensen for her daughter, Dixie. Sorensen asked through a post about the ducks as a birthday present for the now 3-year-old, who has a spina bifida and loves to duck jeeps.

“It’s the kind of response you get in the Jeep community,” Chapman said.

A Gators rubber duck is sitting on Aaron Ammon's Jeep
Aaron Ammons, a member of the Facebook page “Duck Duck Jeep – Florida”, finds a Gators duck in his Jeep on December 1. Duck Duck Jeep started in Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Ammons)

Shannon Iglesias, who works at UF Health Labor & Delivery, said she is part of the Alachua County Jeepers and Gainesville Jeepers, clubs where groups of owners go hiking, barbecuing and socializing.

During the pandemic, Iglesias invited Jeepers to join a truck parade to celebrate a boy’s birthday. About 40 jeeps attended the event, Iglesias said. Duck Duck Jeep is just one aspect of owning vehicles, she said.

“There’s just a lot of charity and a lot of parades that we do,” she said. “We will convoy and show our support for various things in society.”

In November, Reagan attended Krawl’n for the Fallen, a four-wheel drive off-road event in Starke, Florida, which raises money for families of fallen police officers. More than 700 jeeps were on the trails, according to its Facebook page.

During tonight’s “Remembrance of Our Heroes” ride, Reagan said they honored the fallen officers by driving down a path without any lights. Instead, they followed the blue glow plugs attached to the back of each jeep and led by a path of light sources.

When she came down the trail hill, she could see officers and survivors on the other side; something Reagan said was both heartwarming and humbling. She left knowing that they touched the lives of others and remembered the importance of belonging.

“There is always hope out there for everyone to just agree,” she said. “Just one duck at a time.”

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