Local residents can compete in “The Amazing Race” without leaving Lake County.
STORY: James Combs PHOTOS: Tim Totten
Tim Totten of Eustis has been a die-hard fan of “The Amazing Race” since the show debuted in 2001. He tunes in each new season to watch teams of two race around the world and compete in fun, exciting challenges.
Now, Totten is bringing a scaled-down version of the CBS hit reality show to Lake County. The inaugural Amazing Race for Charity event will be held in Eustis on April 5, allowing locals to enjoy their own amazing adventure while using teamwork and problem-solving skills to complete challenges en route to the finish line.
Totten says the idea for this event was derived from the Amazing Charity Race held in Loveland, Ohio. For the past two years, he has served on the race committee and spent weeks in Ohio learning how organizers plan, prepare, and market the race.
“I was simply blown away,” says Totten, owner of Final Embrace. “That event draws 1,200 participants from 18 states and sells out in four to six hours. Everybody is smiling the entire day and having a wonderful time. I wanted to bring this event to Lake County because I know everybody will enjoy it.”
Totten was also impressed that the Loveland organizers have raised nearly $500,000 for charity since its inception eight years ago. He hopes to make an equally impressive impact locally. Funds derived from the Amazing Race for Charity will be distributed to at least nine Lake County charities.
One of the beneficiaries is the LifeStream Behavioral Center Foundation, which will provide numerous volunteers to staff the event.
“Instead of hosting another 5K, we decided to direct our attention on this event because it will allow us to work for other charities instead of competing for money,” says B.E. Thompson, director of development at LifeStream Behavioral Center. “We will benefit financially as much from this as we would by hosting another 5K race. Plus, it is exciting to be a part of a new concept that I feel will be a big success.”
On your mark, get set …
The timed race will send teams of two racing through a five-mile course in Eustis. They will leave the starting line in one-minute intervals and along the way will compete in 20 mental and physical challenges to obtain clues to their next destination. The challenge locations will include schools, public parks, churches, and businesses such as Olivia’s Coffeehouse, Wells Fargo Advisors, and Village Framer & Art Gallery.
Although Totten does not want to reveal the challenges, he said each one will correlate with the specific venue. For instance, competitors may perform an onstage skit at Bay Street Players. “I’ll say this much. There will be a puzzle challenge, a messy challenge where people get wet or dirty, and plenty of challenges where teams work together to complete them,” Totten says. “The best part about it is we are showcasing businesses, parks, and other neat destinations in Eustis.”
On the evening prior to the event, Totten and his staff are hosting a map release party at the Eustis First Friday Street Festival to reveal the race route and the details of each challenge. Teams who pay the $125 entry fee also receive two race shirts, two bibs, and a post-race meal.
While the race will feature serious athletes, no one has to be in tiptop shape to participate in the event, which typically takes slower competitors two hours to complete. “If you can make it through a day at a theme park, then you can finish this race,” Totten says. “You will not be climbing bales of hay or flipping tire tractors. Our goal is to ensure you have fun. There is no major bending or anything potentially harmful.”
Those physically unable to compete can still support a good cause by sponsoring a local high school team to race. “Teenagers may not have $125 to compete, but a generous person can sponsor them so they can be part of the race,” Totten says. “It is tax deductible, and you can even indicate which high school team you want to support.”
In the future, he will move the Amazing Race for Charity to different cities throughout Lake County. “This is a golden opportunity for Lake County residents to invest money in one event that reaches a broad spectrum of charities. This race is not just about competing; it’s about promoting the community and working together to build synergy.”
For more information about the event, please call 352.242.8111 or visit amazingraceforcharity.com.