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Where speeding was legal

At least 200 'first responders' attend indoor kart fundraiser

Posted: June 27, 2009 9:26 p.m.
Updated: June 28, 2009 4:30 a.m.

California Highway Patrol's Sergeant Matthew Hill speeds through the Racer's Edge Indoor Karting course, in Canyon Country, during Thursday night's "First Responders Fast and Furious" charity event. Personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Santa Clarita Valley Station, California Highway Patrol, American Medical Response and L.A. Cou...

 

Tires screeched and bumpers thudded as two racers sandwiched California Highway Patrol Sgt. Matthew Hill’s vehicle between their own.

It was an instant that elicited quick gasps from onlookers, who watched the racers gain a momentary upper hand on the CHP-headgear-wearing sergeant.

But cheers emerged from the witnesses as they watched the sergeant escape from his opponents and finish the race in style.

Hill was one of about 200 emergency “first responders” who took on community members at the Racer’s Edge Indoor Karting track in Canyon Country on Thursday to benefit disabled children who have suffered abuse and neglect.

“It was a great time,” said Hill, who was the only officer to sport his CHP helmet and sunglasses on the track. “We get to go out there and compete, but the true winner here is the kids.”

For a $10 to $30 donation, racers went up against off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers, county firefighters and paramedics — all to benefit the 999 for Kids program.

Fundraisers for 999 for Kids are held every year by the Sheriff’s Department, said Deputy Mike Lorenzi of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “We’ve done car washes, some do golf tournaments.”

But this year, thanks to an idea from Deputy David Shoemaker, the departments could invite the community to take them on in “The First Responders Fast and Furious” race.

Shoemaker brought up kart racing as “something different” for the community to get involved in. As he watched his 8-year-old daughter race against children from the community on the kids’ track, Shoemaker said he was pleased with the turnout.

“For two-and-a-half years, I worked as a domestic violence investigator,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve seen a lot of pain. Knowing this is going to help the kids means a lot.”

Garrett Brixon, a Racer’s Edge manager, said the company is giving 40 percent of the proceeds to the charity. He referred to the fundraiser as “the biggest and most successful” one the relatively new business has hosted thus far.

“Right now, we’ve pushed about 100 of those ($30) packages and we’re only half way through the night,” he said.
The money raised for the charity helps fund scholarships for camp and college, as well as special equipment such as motorized wheelchairs or computers.

By the end of the night, Lorenzi said at least 200 racers had participated in the fundraiser. Final numbers had yet to counted, he said.

With a “Go Bob,” Mary Henderson cheered on CHP senior volunteer Bob Harris, age 84.

Although Harris races motorcycles on flat dirt tracks, he said he’s never tried indoor karting — except for, he admitted, when he visited Racer’s Edge the day before to practice.

“It’s more of a workout than you think,” said Harris, who came in seventh place for his first race. “You’re just doing the best you can to beat the guy in front of you.”

The evening was punctuated by chummy rivalry and bantering between  departments.

“I kept waiting for the CHP guy to give me a pit maneuver,” said Mark Savage, a Fire Department captain.

“There’s definitely friendly competition between the sheriff’s, fire and CHP. But I don’t know where the CHP guy was. I think he was back at the starting line,” added sheriff’s Deputy Mike Tunget.

As for the paramedics, they were trying to keep up with their opponents.

“We have a common goal — to beat law enforcement,” said Kevin Bowes, an emergency medical technician for American Medical Response.

But all joking aside, Savage said, the evening was really about 999 for Kids.

“It’s always good to come out and have some friendly competition, and (there’s) nothing better than to do it for a charity,” he said.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Anthony La Berge, who made his appearance on the track later in the evening, echoed Savage’s comments.

“It’s a strong turnout. We’ll raise a lot of funds for the children in need,” he said.

And what did local residents think of the chance to smoke law-enforcement officials in a race?

Cameron Casey, 17, of Valencia, had this to say before his race: “I expect to beat them.”

 

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