Local celebrities and politicians go-kart race for charity – TheDay.com

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Published November 24. 2021 8:11PM | Updated November 24. 2021 8:15PM

By Erica Moser
 
Day staff writer

Montville — When one thinks of state legislators getting competitive, it might typically be in the context of elections. But Wednesday night, they donned helmets for some competitive go-kart racing — all in the name of raising money for local charities.

Local radio host Lee Elci held the Thanks4Giving Magna-Karta Racing Championship — with the tagline “Speed for need” — at SuperCharged, in which up to 40 people who made a $500 donation could drive. Elci said 38 people showed up to drive Wednesday.

But many more donated, and the GoFundMe page has raised more than $23,000.

The drivers got racer names, which meant the booming announcement for the first heat included, “Racing at spot number five, Paul ‘Clambake’ Formicaaaaa!” (State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, owns Flanders Fish Market.)

Among the other participants were Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington; 2018 gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski; No Tolls CT founder Patrick Sasser; East Lyme police Chief Mike Finkelstein; former New London police Chief Peter Reichard; former Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess; Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bruce Flax; and Day reporter Rick Koster.

Spectators observed from the railing of the second-floor bridge overlooking the track. Bob and Amy Stefanowski’s daughters even made signs.

Here’s how it works: Each participant picked a charity, with the money being split such that the charities picked by the fastest drivers would get the most money. There were four heats, with the top five drivers from each advancing. As of press time, the go-kart races were still ongoing.

Some of the charities picked include Wings of Freedom Animal Rescue, Connecticut Burns Care Foundation, Safe Futures, Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Waterford Country School, and Veterans Equine Therapeutic Services.

Rep. Irene Haines, R-East Haddam, and Amy Stefanowski teamed up to each pick the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, “to double up our winnings,” Haines said, noting it’s going to get cold out soon.

“It’s like radical generosity, we call it,” said Annah Perch, development manager of the Homeless Hospitality Center, who — along with Haines, Stefanowski and others — was wearing a bright orange shirt highlighting the center. “It’s amazing the creativity people come up with.”

She said especially during the coronavirus pandemic, the center needs the money more than ever, and she was blown away by all the people that came out.

Haines noted she had never go-karted before, and Rep. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, said the same thing, though he joked before his race that he was practicing how to hold a trophy. He came in second in his heat, behind Elci.

De la Cruz was the only Democratic elected official to participate, though Elci was quick to point out he had asked others. “I understand Ned’s busy,” he said of Gov. Ned Lamont.

Elci said he tries to do something for the community every year. “I thought it might be fun to do something for charity that’s not necessarily just people asking for money,” he said. “People have a competitive spirit, so a lot of folks who kind of heard me talking about it on the radio offered to pony up money to be a part of it.”

Along with newcomers were some serious contenders: For example, in the first heat, New London-Waterford Speedbowl champion Tommy Silva came in first.

e.moser@theday.com

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