Aspen’s Sloan shows plenty of pluck in selling the ducks | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Sloan shows plenty of pluck in selling the ducks

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Blake Sloan was out in force last week on a one-man crusade to sell as many little rubber ducks for the 2002 Ducky Derby Festival as possible.

As a participant with Challenge Aspen, Sloan’s ducks benefit the Challenge Aspen Scholarship program, which gives children a chance to attend the nonprofit’s popular camps for people with disabilities. The thousands of dollars the organization awards in scholarships each year ensure that no one with financial difficulties is excluded from camp.

The list of beneficiaries from the Ducky Derby is long, with most benefiting youth services in the Roaring Fork Valley. Kids throughout the valley have been selling the ducks, which are technically “adopted” for $5 each, in time for a race down the Roaring Fork River on Saturday.

Last Thursday, the final day ducks were eligible for adoption, Blake Sloan is raring to go. With an enormous folder of blank adoption papers, he cruises downtown Aspen in search of potential adopters.

Sloan, 16, is a recognizable and ever-present figure around Aspen. Perhaps if you’ve never been called “bud” or “buddy” by Sloan, you’re not really a local. Diagnosed with a rare disorder known as Wold-Hirschhorn Syndrome, Sloan has attention deficit disorder and a learning disability, says his mother, Tricia.

But he doesn’t let the syndrome slow him down – in fact, when Blake Sloan is on the move, he moves fast. And hustling from store to store to sell the ducks, Sloan isn’t put off by the people who tell him they’ve already adopted some.

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He says “thank you” and keeps on movin’.

Outside Zele, Sloan is approached by a woman who adopts five ducks at once. In a flash, Sloan has adopted out two more ducks to passersby.

“This is business!” Sloan proclaims. As a part of Challenge Aspen, Sloan skis frequently in the winter, helping others down the hill by checking to make sure everyone in his group is doing well, said Amanda Boxtel, Challenge Aspen co-founder.

The organization’s volunteer coordinator, Allison Bartholomaus, said Sloan is considered both a participant and a volunteer at Challenge Aspen.

“He’s always helping out, and at camps every morning when kids show up, he runs up to cars, brings their bags down and helps out with everybody,” she said. “Everyone knows Blake. He’s probably got more friends than anyone in this valley.”

It seems to be true, as walking down the street Sloan says “Hi bud,” or “How ya doin’, buddy?” to everyone he recognizes, and some he doesn’t. He often gets a wave or a “Hey, Blakester!” from friends.

Tricia Sloan says her son has always been one of the friendliest kids around – and it might be a secret to his success as a salesman.

“We stopped for gas in Glenwood Springs last night, and while I was filling up the tank Blake got out, cleaned my windshield and sold a duck,” she says. “He gets back in the car and says, ‘Another one down, Mom.'”

Tricia Sloan says her son once missed the bus to school, but turned up mysteriously in class when she called the school to find out where he was. He reported to his mother that he had hitchhiked to school, and when she asked if the ride was from someone he knew, Blake replied, “I know him now.”

The 11th annual Ducky Derby Festival 2002 will be held Saturday in Rio Grande Park. The schedule of events include a day full of activities, and the rubber ducks will begin the race down the Roaring Fork from No Problem Bridge at 2:07 p.m.