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Rubber duck hunt: Roundup organization creates unique activity to boost mental health

Fluets with their duck
Posted at 3:18 PM, Oct 12, 2023

An organization called Youth CARES has hidden 24 rubber ducks around the community of Roundup in an effort to boost mental health.

These ducks are each attached to a positive message and whoever finds them is entered into a raffle.

Youth CARES adviser Angie Mozqueda said that the organization was created after survey results showed that mental health had seen a severe drop in Musselshell County over the past year.

"We were at 54 percent and within a year, we jumped to 67.5 percent of our students that are depressed or suicidal," Mozqueda said.

Mozqueda, who doubles as the county's drug prevention specialist, started working on the idea of a mental health organization with Roundup resident Jody Dahl. Dahl recently started a foundation in Roundup focusing on youth and emotional health.

"Really, Angie came to me with the idea this summer," Dahl said. "I mean, instantly I thought it was fantastic, but I never thought it would get going this quickly. It's just one of those positive things that you kind of mention and then it blows up more than you thought it would."

Dahl and Mozqueda said it's been a team effort getting the project going. They partnered with Roundup school counselor Alicia Godfrey to have a better pulse as to what's happening inside the halls.

"Daily, we're dealing with some sort of struggle," Godfrey said. "So, we see it and now we're just trying to do something about it."

And so the group got to work forming an organization that was available for students, but they wanted to do things a little differently by having current students more involved.

"Instead of having adults telling kids what the answers are, we really need to go the peer-on-peer route, where students are helping students," Mozqueda said.

"It just creates more ownership," Dahl said. "When there's students that are going through the same things, I think that really helps."

Once they received a sponsorship that helped fund the project, the group selected current high school students to serve as ambassadors. Thaiden Godfrey and Caitlin Barber were among the crew selected.

"I've definitely had my share of my own struggles and having to help my friends and other classmates with struggles," Barber said. "So, having an official program that kids can rely on is definitely something I was excited for."

Both Barber and Godfrey said they were honored to get involved, hoping to help put an end to the issues they see every day.

"There's so many people that feel alone," Godfrey said. "There's not a whole lot for kids to do and that's one of our big things is trying to make activities and get away from things that might not be good for them, like drugs and alcohol."

And that is how the idea of the duck hunt first began. The group attached thoughtful notes to 24 different rubber ducks and hid them around town. When someone finds the duck, they are supposed to post them on social media, sharing the quote and tagging the program's social media accounts.

"I think the goal with posting the messages is just that you never know who's going to see that," Mozqueda said. "It might find the exact person who needs to hear some encouragement and that's what the goal of this whole thing is."

Not only do the people who find the ducks receive encouragement, but they also are entered into a raffle for a $100 Amazon gift card.

So far, 13 ducks have been found by Roundup residents of all ages. Fourth-grader Annabella Fluet is one of the lucky ones who found a duck, and she said the program generated excitement around the community.

"There's not that much stuff going around, like fun stuff like this, so I got really excited," Fluet said. "A lot of my classmates want to find a duck after I found one and so it's been pretty fun."

When asked, Fluet read the note that was attached to her duck and shared her thoughts as to what it means.

"Attitude is the little thing that makes a big difference," Fluet read. "It just kind of makes me think that there's a lot of good people out there and they aren't always bad."

Fluet's mother Cara Fluet said it's nice to see the community offer a program like this for the children.

"I love that something like this is going around and giving these kids something fun and safe to do," Fluet said. "Plus, it has the thoughtful note and gives them something to think about."

So, the next time you're in Roundup, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for this simple game that residents believe will make a big impact.

"You can already see the difference it's made in our youth," Dahl said. "I mean, it's sharing positivity and it's building people up and that's what we want to do."