By Stephanie Malench
On March 17, Mr. Vanderquack returned from his six-month, 185 day-road trip through all 50 states raising money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN.
Lisa Unverzagt, a family service counselor in the funeral industry out of East Alton, was approached by the family of a hospice patient at St. Jude for help planning a celebration of life.
A Jeep owner, Unverzagt came up with the idea of sending a 20-inch stuffed duck around the United States in the only Jeep convoy ever held. Unverzagt purchased a stuffed toy duck and attached a GPS tracking device under its wing so people could follow Mr. Vanderquack’s journey online through his website, mrvanderquack.com and a passport to log all cities he went to and the Jeep name who helped him along the way.
Mr. Vanderquack got his name when Unerzagt made a list of all of the silly and cute names she could come up with and she liked the way Mr. Vanderquack sounded when she said his name out loud.
Mr. Vanderquack started his journey at 6 p.m. on September 3 at All Star Chrysler Jeep in St. Louis. From that moment until his return 590 Jeep drivers took turns driving Vanderquack around the country in 34 legs totaling 47,000 miles. A post was made in the I Luv Jeep group secured enough drivers for 650 cities in 72 hours. The private Facebook group “Mr. Vanderquack is on the Move for St. Jude” has grown to over 6,900 members since it’s creation on August 12, 2021.
Everyone who drove during the six months signed a giant banner on the front and back. The banner will be framed in clear glass and given to St. Jude’s to display. Another souvenirs St. Jude’s will be receiving to display from the trip is a bright yellow travel trunk full of souvenirs from Vanderquack’s trip, decorated with stickers from all 50 states.
Alaskan Airlines donated a flight to Alaska and back for him in his own special box. Once in Alaska, his Jeep driver took him all the way to the North Pole. Because it was right before Christmas,
Vanderquack did not get to meet Santa Claus, but did get to meet some reindeer and was not sure what to think of the large creatures.
The most exciting part of the trip for Unerzagt and Vanderquack was the special tour of the Jeep factory in Toledo, OH where the Wranglers and Gladiators are made. Toledo is also the hometown to Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude over 70 years ago.
This was the only time Unerzagt was on the road with Vanderquack. Vanderquack even had his own safety goggles that he wore as they toured the entire facility and saw how their favorite vehicle was made.
Vanderquack is considered an Ambassador of the Mission of St. Jude and a super hero sharing the mission. Unerzagt said “This duck plus thousands of Jeepers is driving donations for St. Jude across America”.
When the fundraiser came to an end on March 27, over $145,000 had been raised for St. Jude. At Vanderquack’s Welcome Home Party at Cassen’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Glen Carbon, $8,029 towards the $150,000 goal was raised with a variety of raffle and auction items including Mr. Vanderquack himself, and the opportunity for three Jeeps to be reproduced as miniatures similar to Hot Wheels.
Because of the popularity and success of Vanderquack, Unerzagt is making the fundraiser an annual event. Mr. Vanderquack Junior is set to start his journey from Jeep Beach in Daytona, FL on April 25.
Junior has set his own fundraising goal of $250,000 and is expected to complete his journey at St. Jude around September 25, when Unerzagt will be the honorary Duck Master at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to kick off St. Jude’s annual fundraiser.
Unerzagt hopes to raise $1,000,000 a year by the fifth year of the event.
Junior can also be tracked on his journey at mrvanderquack.com.