Keeping Her Ducks in a Row
Sunday, Sept. 13 will mark the 27th Annual Rubber Duckie Race™ & Festival at Lancaster County Central Park—and no one will be more excited to see those ducks in the water than Carissa Slawecki, special events coordinator for Schreiber Pediatric.
A Pennsylvania native and soon-to-be bride, Slawecki is a 2014 graduate of Millersville University, where she majored in communication studies and minored in English writing studies. During the spring semester of her senior year, she interned in the financial development office at Schreiber.
“When the special events coordinator position opened up in July of 2014, they asked me to come on full time, and it was a perfect fit,” Slawecki said.
Schreiber Pediatric is a nationally recognized pediatric facility providing family-centered education and therapy programs for children, aged birth to 21, with developmental delays and acquired injuries.
Offering physical, occupational, and speech therapies, along with preschool, daycare, and a variety of other family support and recreational programs, Schreiber uses a goal-oriented approach to maximize the ability each child has to function as independently as possible.
They are also a nonprofit organization, meaning services are provided for anyone who needs them, regardless of the ability to pay. But Schreiber, like many other nonprofit organizations, is facing some funding challenges.
“While we accept most insurance plans for our clients, reimbursement rates fall far below actual cost of service provided,” Slawecki said. “This, coupled with reductions in state funding, has resulted in a net loss for our center. We rely on community support to compensate for $37 of every hour of therapy provided.”
As a result of these challenges, Schreiber annually faces a $1.5 million gap in their budget and thus holds several special events to help fill that gap. Slawecki is responsible for managing all aspects of those events, including securing sponsorships, working with the committees, helping to create marketing materials, and organizing all the other endless details that go into pulling off an event that runs smoothly.
She doesn’t mind, however, because “I have always been at my happiest when I am helping people,” she said. “When I interned at Schreiber, I fell in love with the kiddos and the center’s mission of helping every child in need. I loved the positive energy of the center and everyone’s ‘can do’ attitude.”
Slawecki is the first to admit that her position with Schreiber keeps her busy, working many nights and weekends, which is typically when their events take place.
“Our special events calendar is pretty full with six events annually,” she said. “A lot of times I am working on more than one event at once, which can get a little crazy … but I think I would get bored if every day were the same. Overall, my main responsibility is making sure all of the events are successful and that we meet our financial goals.”
For Slawecki, a good day is when an event is successful and exceeds set financial goals, doing significantly better than in past years. This is something she’s enjoyed experiencing a few times since she’s taken her current position.
She also spends a lot of time working with committee members and sponsors and enjoys that face-to-face interaction.
But one of the best parts of the job, for her, is getting a chance to work working directly with the Schreiber children.
“I don’t get to work with the kiddos as often as I would like, but when I do, it’s my favorite part of the day,” she said.
Although being a woman hasn’t made much difference so far in her chosen career, Slawecki said that her youth and that fact that she’s a very recent graduate sometimes has, especially when it comes to people’s confidence in her professional abilities.
“Overall, though, most of my experiences have been very positive, and I am so appreciative of those who have treated me with respect and have offered helpful guidance and advice,” she said.
The Rubber Duckie RaceTM & Festival is without a doubt the biggest fundraising event Schreiber hosts each year. The rules are simple: Participants purchase a ticket that corresponds with a duck that will race down the Conestoga River.
“We offer top prizes to the first 50 ducks that cross the finish line, plus additional premium prizes for our new specialty ducks,” Slawecki explained. On race day, the community comes together for an afternoon of games, pony rides, and “of course, the dropping of the 20,000+ racing ducks!”
Typically, Schreiber nets more than $100,000 from the Rubber Duckie Race & Festival, which really helps to make up their $1.5 million deficit. This year, however, it’s even more important because their application for funding was rejected by United Way, which added even more to what they have to make up.
“It was disappointing, but the community support that we have gotten has just been overwhelming,” Slawecki said.
Schreiber has received monetary donations and also generous gifts of time from many volunteers.
“I have always felt that giving back to the community is very important … Volunteers are essential to what we do; our events and programs could not be held without them.”
So what would Slawecki say she’s learned about herself during her time with Schreiber so far?
“My strengths are being very detail-oriented and organized,” she says. “I like to have everything go according to plan, but that just isn’t realistic. I’ve definitely learned to go with the flow more, and to have a plan B, C, and D.
“And as I’ve gotten more comfortable in my position and more confident in myself, I’ve found that I love what I do and that I really can succeed.” BW