O'Brien's Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies' Founder Shares Her Story

O'Brien's Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies started out small, but grew to be Miles for Moffitt's highest fundraising team in 2012. Founder, Dani Gray, shares their story.

People keep asking why I do this and the easy answer is- for my Mama.  My mom was the type of lady that lit up a room.  She left an imprint on everyone she met.  She was brave and strong.  She was kind and creative.  Mama was passionate about the things that she believed in and once she put her mind to something, you could consider it not only done, but done in a way most people wouldn’t take the time to imagine.  When she died in November of 1998, the church was full.  I didn’t even know all of the people there, but they all had a memory that they needed to share with me about my mom.  They told me stories of her showing them kindness, inspiring them, making them laugh, making them feel supported and making them feel important.  That’s just the way she was.  She didn’t go out of her way to do these things.  It was just the right thing to do.  Mama taught severely emotional disturbed children.  Some of those children didn’t have much trust for adults, but they knew that “Mrs. A” loved them. She spoke to their souls and they adored her.  She was amazing.  I always say that even though she was 5’3”, she left me big shoes to fill and I miss her.  Your Mama loves you with a love that is like no other and it is hard to learn to live without that. 


My mom died when I was 22.  She never got to meet my daughters.  She never got to see the woman I grew up to be.  At first, I needed a way to honor her.  I wanted one more way to show how much I loved her.  I participated in other cancer fundraisers and it was rewarding to do a good job and to know that I was helping someone somewhere.  Then, I heard about Miles for Moffitt.  Moffitt was a connection to my mother.  Mama started out at a local hospital.  She was already a stage 3 when the cancer was found.  When the doctors gave her six months, someone told her about Moffitt.  They said, “If you have a Cadillac, you take it to the Cadillac dealer.  If you have cancer, you go to Moffitt”.  Between my Mother’s own tenacious spirit and the caring staff at Moffitt, she lived two more years.  Time with your loved ones is life’s most precious gift and this is what Moffitt gave to me.  Through Miles for Moffitt, I have found a way to give back.  I started two years ago with a small team that consisted of four of my closest friends and our children, including my own two daughters- Mikayla and Abby.  We signed up the week before the walk.  We didn’t raise any money.  We walked in honor of my mom and to celebrate one of our teammates that is a cancer survivor, Rick Miller.  After the walk, we talked about how next year we should really try to do some fundraisers.


In March of last year, I started thinking about Miles for Moffitt again.  My fiancé, Sean Donohue, and I formed a team of our friends and our children- The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies.  It was really important to us to involve the kids.  We wanted to find fun ways to raise money and show the kids that we all could make a difference.   I approached Sean Rice of O’Brien’s Irish Pubs about doing a fundraiser together.  I typed up a list of ideas my friends and I were planning.  I also presented him with a list of events that we thought he may want to help with.  It was very important to me for Sean to know that we were willing to work hard and didn’t plan on O’Brien’s being the only fundraiser and that we were not just looking for a handout.  I knew that Sean was always doing things for the community, but what I didn’t know is that Sean’s Uncle Martin was terminally ill with cancer.  What none of us knew is that Sean’s business partner and beloved friend, Tony Martin, was about to be diagnosed with an inoperable tumor and would spend months at Moffitt getting chemo and radiation treatment.  Sean, Tony and the whole Brandon O’Brien’s family jumped on board with the Duckies.  By race day we had become a team of 62! 




It was a fun, wild ride.  Yes, cancer had made me feel helpless as I watched my Mama fade away, but Miles for Moffitt gave me a way to fight back.  The best part for me was that somewhere along the way, it became not just about me and my Mom anymore.  I realized that we were teaching our kids that no one was too small to make a difference.  We were giving our community an opportunity to celebrate their survivors and to honor those they had lost.  I feel like Miles for Moffitt gave us big boxing gloves to fight against this horrid disease that takes without care.  Miles for Moffitt gave us a way to thank all of the people at Moffitt from the valet, to the chemo nurses, to the surgeons that showed us kindness and gave us that precious gift of time.  Miles for Moffitt gave us a way to stand alongside the cancer researchers to help find less harmful, more effective treatments and with God’s grace, a cure so that one day our children will live in a world where cancer is not a death sentence.


Something that I must tell you is that I am surrounded by an amazing band of angels that have not just supported me on this journey, but have stayed up late at night and gotten up very early to help me pull this thing off.  Anything that the Duckies accomplished, I could have never done without each and every one of them.




Thank you for letting me share our story!



A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.  ~Jackie Robinson

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Evelyn T.Woodson April 23, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Any loss is difficult , I lost my mother when I was age one, And there was not grandparents or other relatives who was willing to step in and try to fill the void, I know the feeling of not having a Mother and having my won children who never hd a grandmothers love , I hope this will be some comfort , My Son had brain Surgery in 06 , he had a very close call since then several times, But he is determine and attending University at Sable Park, His entire life was filled with misunderstanding and blaming and exploitation , by Medical Doctors I sought help from: but we made it he is alive, the anit seizure meds do cause extra challenges , But each day is counted as a blessed gift, I was at Obrien's on Opening Night and enjoyed many good times, there with friends from Turkey and South Korea and the Chek republic. I'm now in Turkey serving as Ambassador for the Love Foundation.It would be nice to her from you and people at OB"s . Tell Tony I was there in June , But he was away I guess. Warm wishes Evelyn


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