When Random Acts of Kindness Go Viral: The Story of Duck Duck Jeep
What’s with all those ducks on all those jeeps? Maybe you have been “ducking” yourself, or perhs you have a knack for “ducking” other Jeep drivers? Either way, you have experienced the phenomenon known as Duck Duck Jeep, a global movement that arose from a single, random act of kindness outside the Stedmans V & S department store in Bancroft, Ontario. In July of 2020, when everything seemed uncertain in the world, it was here that the first Jeep owner was ducked.
“Through COVID, there’s been so much hate spewed between countries, between people, and even between families,” said Allison Parliament, founder of Duck Duck Jeep. “My grandpa always taught us that you never know what someone is going through, but sometimes a smile is worth more than any words could be. We turned that into something with a rubber duck, and it’s just gone crazy.”
“You’re Not Welcome Here!”
Parliament is a self-described Jeep girl, book nerd, and proud dog mom to an English Mastiff named Ollie. As COVID lockdowns began in 2020, she left a promising career as a financial advisor in Alabama to be closer to her family in Canada. “My grandma is 90, my mom is an only child at this point, and both my aunts have passed away,” Parliament explained. “Grandma needed somebody up here, so I packed my Jeep and came home.”
Given the uncertainty of COVID and lockdowns becoming the norm, Parliament put the pedal to the metal as she cruised north in her silver 2018 Wrangler named “Cana Bama.” After crossing into Canada, she pulled into Woodstock, Ontario, running on fumes (both her and Cana Bama). It was supposed to be a quick stop, but somebody at the gas station had other plans upon noticing their Alabama plates.
“I heard stories about Americans not being welcome because of COVID, but I brushed it off, and I figured it would be fine because I was born in Canada,” Parliament said. “Canadians are known to be kind, and that’s always been my experience.”
But this day was different. This person singled Parliament out, deciding she was a threat after arriving from the United States. Without warning, they vehemently confronted Parliament in a fit of rage at the gas station, accusing her of bringing the virus into Canada. “He grabbed me and pushed me up against my Jeep,” Parliament recalled. “They said I wasn’t welcome here and yelled quite a few colorful words. I was able to get away from him, but I was so terrified I could barely drive the rest of the way home.”
The experience in Woodstock trudged up bad memories for Parliament, who fought off a deranged stalker when she was younger. After months of harassment, the stalker ultimately tried to strangle her in a violent confrontation (the incident resulted in a restraining order, and Parliament later learned she was not his only victim). Now feeling like she wasn’t safe anywhere after being assaulted in Woodstock, Parliament retreated to her family’s homestead and rarely, if ever, left the house. “I just couldn’t,” she recalled. “It took a long time before I was comfortable.”
Now a few months removed from the incident in Woodstock, and with summer in full swing, Parliament decided to venture out at the urging of her best friend, Peter. “He is my world, and when we end up separated, it’s hard on both of us,” Parliament said. “I always do something to make him laugh after I leave, which means I usually hide something in the house somewhere for him to find later.”
This time it was rubber ducks.
“I really bought this bag of rubber ducks while we were shopping to torture Peter,” Parliament continued. “And as we were walking out of Stedmans, I immediately noticed this amazing Jeep.”
The First Ducking
The Jeep that caught her eye was customized six ways from Sunday with hardcore off-road accessories, including a lift kit and 35-inch tires. “I was drooling,” Parliament said. “My Jeep was stock at the time, but this one had some serious work done to it. As I looked at it, I was like, ‘Cana Bama needs to have all of these things too.’”
At that point, Parliament grabbed a rubber duck from the bag and wrote a simple message: “Nice Rig.” She then tucked it by the driver’s side mirror.
“Well, the owner of the Jeep was watching me the whole time because he came out smiling and saying how amazing it was that we put this duck on his mirror,” Parliament said. “I was a little embarrassed initially, but then he asked if we had a Facebook or Instagram. We laughed and said it was the first time we have ever done this!”
Later that night, Parliament posted a photo of the customized Jeep with the duck on her Instagram, using the hashtag #DuckDuckJeep. “I figured a couple of people may like it, and that would be it,” she said. “Within a few days, we had people from all over messaging us, media reaching out, and thousands of others suddenly following us on social media.”
In just two short years, Duck Duck Jeep has a presence in nearly 50 countries and a loyal following on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook (Parliament even got a duck tattoo when the Facebook group hit 30,000 followers). In 2021, the inaugural Duck Duck Jeep Invasion took over Stony Lonesome OHV Park in Coleman, Alabama, a weekend filled with live music, food vendors, and lots of off-roading. Despite the influence of Duck Duck Jeep – and with no signs of slowing down – the organization is small, with just two other administrative staff alongside Parliament. “Carolyn and Jay are phenomenal human beings,” she said. “They are the type of people that will open their door to you.”
Rallying Around The Mother Ducker
Just as the momentum was rolling for Duck Duck Jeep, Parliament fell seriously ill in the fall of 2021 after a freak bite from a brown recluse spider, made worse by her ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. At the height of her illness, Parliament ran fevers as high as 104 and was unable to keep food down. She was sleeping up to 18 hours a day and could hardly walk at one point. “I don’t often ask for help, and I wanted to give up,” Parliament said. “I was frustrated, depressed, and felt like no matter what, I was always going to hit a wall.”
Upon learning she was sick, the Duck Duck Jeep community rallied around Parliament, who they affectionately refer to as the “Mother Ducker.” They reminded her that little random acts of kindness, like a rubber duck on the hood of a Jeep, can change the world. “People everywhere started sending me ducks, and my grandmother even found a pair of duck socks for Christmas,” Parliament said. “It was amazing to see so many from our off-roading community willing to help, with many offering to help me figure out the next steps for Duck Duck Jeep after being sick.”
Duck Duck Jeep Invasion
Today, Parliament is back on her feet and preparing for the second annual Duck Duck Jeep invasion, set for the weekend of October 14th through the 16th. The event returns to Stoney Lonesome for 2022, and, like last year, all monies raised go directly to the Ducking for Teachers charity. Scotty Austin, formerly of Saving Abel, and the Will Weasley Band will perform live. “We’re even going to have a ‘Glow Round’ this year too, so glow sticks will be lighting a trail in the evening,” Parliament added.
If you want to get down and ducky with the off-road community around Duck Duck Jeep, request to join the group via its official Facebook page. Those with Instagram and Tik Tok can search “@officialduckingJeepest2020” or the hashtags #duckduckjeep and #duckingjeeps to participate in the fun. They even have a cute little storefront where you can buy official Duck Duck Jeep merchandise.
Any and all Jeepers are welcome to join the Duck Duck Jeep crowd, so it’s not necessary to own something as fancy as a Wrangler Rubicon or Gladiator. The type of Jeep you drive doesn’t matter with Duck Duck Jeep, and it never will. All that matters is having kindness and compassion in your heart.
“Strangers have come together with ducks and jeeps, and I’ve seen the most unlikely friendships,” Parliament said. “At the end of the day, I never thought we’d be here, but people always need a place where they can feel safe. That’s what Duck Duck Jeep is.”
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.