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20 Compete in the Kiwanis 'Great Race'

September 9, 2011

Twenty competitors from Chatsworth and the surrounding area met Saturday to face the endurance challenge of the "Kiwanis Great Race."

The starting line was at Chatsworth Park Elementary School and the prize was $500 in the fundraiser inspired by The Amazing Race, as seen on CBS. [Read on to learn who won.]

The event was organized by the Kiwanis Club of Chatsworth to raise money for the “Making a Difference” scholarship fund, which awards $1,000 to each of four Chatsworth High School students.

Tim Ross, owner of SBV Productions, board member of Chatsworth Kiwanis and co-chair of the event, said the club wanted the fundraiser to be something that participants would be enthusiastic about.

“We wanted to come up with a project that benefits the community.  We did not want a pancake breakfast,” he said.  “We wanted something more fun.”

Teams of two had to complete challenges in order to win clues that would lead to the next challenge. The race spanned a number of city blocks and included local businesses.  The first team across the finish line at Mason Park was awarded $500.

Heidi Borst, Kiwanis member and event volunteer, said 10 teams showed up.  Registration was $160 per team. 

The race kicked off at Chatsworth Park Elementary School, where teams had to locate the correct ticket from a clue and bring it to the host.  The correct ticket was hung on a fence among many incorrect tickets.

Teams found their next clue at Ride On on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, a non-profit organization that teaches horseback riding to children and adults with physical and mental challenges.  Teams had to clean a horse stall before they could move on.

The next challenge was to locate the “Wandering Kiwanian,” a Kiwanis volunteer who was supposed to be stationed on Hillview between Kingbury and Jordan, and state the Kiwanis motto.  Not every team had an easy time finding him.  Some teams, like Sandi Sexton, office manager, and Debi Ricketts, librarian, looked up the motto on their Smartphones while racing to beat the other teams. 

The Kiwanian, Zachariah Boren, a computer technician at Chaminade High School handed out the next clue as teams found him.  He later told Chatsworth Patch that he waited in the wrong spot, “but got people who ran in the wrong direction.”

The next challenge took place at Los Toros Mexican Restaurant on Devonshire Street, where teams had to either drink an entire non-alcoholic margarita or eat a plate of spicy hot peppers. 

Lucia Montano, an owner of the restaurant, said only one team member ate the peppers. 

“He ate it in one bite,” she said.

To keep the contestants on their toes, and in what several said was the most fun challenge of the day, contestants had to learn to square dance in order to pass the next challenge.

Square Dance Caller Ron Black led the teams through rudimentary square dance routines at the dimly-lit on Devonshire Street. 

“They all passed,” he said, after they went through the steps several times.  Contestants whooped and hollered and scrambled to get their next clue, which took them to on Canoga Avenue.

Teams faced the task of unscrambling the words from various Adam Sandler movies in order to create the correct title, Punch-Drunk Love, which was filmed at Echhart Auto Body.

The next challenge was physical.  Teams were given a brief self-defense lesson from Mark Cox, owner of Chatsworth Krav Maga on Devonshire Street.

“Redirect, control, strike, disarm,” Cox yelled as he demonstrated how to disarm a somebody who is pointing a gun.

Teams that successfully demonstrated the technique were given their next clue.  Although all teams eventually passed the test, some took longer than others.

It took Shawna Erceg several attempts to successfully disarm a gun attack.  Milan Erceg, her husband and teammate, waited for her. 

Contestants, once again, took off running to the next station. 

“We love it,” said Judy Cannon, a negotiator for home loan modifications.  She said she and her teammate, Chris Kuether, a financial advisor, applied five years ago to compete on The Amazing Race.

Chuck Sandy, electrical engineer, had contestants wash two windows of the Chatsworth Public Library before allowing them to proceed.  He said he was from Kansas City. 

“I am visiting relatives, and they put me to work,” he said.  His daughter is one of the organizers of the Great Race.

The next station was at the Chatsworth water tower, where contestants had a mandatory 20-minute rest stop.  Canopies provided plenty of shade.  Water was available.

The next station was , where contestants had to make a lay up, a free throw and a three-point basket before receiving their next clue. 

The next station proved challenging to find.

Contestants who tried to locate on their smart phones were given a previous address.

Frank Moran, a producer for E!, said his team lost ground looking for the bookstore.

“We looked it up on our phone and found their old address,” he said.  “Having a familiarity with Chatsworth would have helped.”

Erika Schreiber, career consultant and Moran’s teammate said they saw other teams heading in the correct direction, but opted to follow the directions they found on their phone.

“Sometimes you have to be the team that takes a risk,” she said.

Vanessa Farley, a decorator, called the shop to verify its location.  The bookstore, located on Mason Avenue, is cramped.  It is stacked floor to ceiling with books.  Contestants had to find the next clue somewhere in the store before they were allowed to proceed to the finish line at Mason Park, where Kiwanis volunteers grilled burgers and hot dogs for the contestants.

Sharon and Patrick Wilkinson won the Great Race and were awarded $500.  The brother and sister team said their strength was in running.

“We got lost but made up the time,” Sharon said. 

“Cleaning the horse stall was the hardest, because they told us it wasn’t clean enough,” Patrick said.  “Washing the windows (at the library) was easiest.” 

Sharon added that she enjoyed the square dance event the most.

Patrick, a firefighter, said he would put his portion of the prize towards a new house.

Sharon, an emergency medical technician, said she would use the money for school.

The second-place team agreed that the Great Race was an endurance challenge.

Matt Purzycki, actor, said the basketball challenge easy.

“We did well in the challenges and kept a good pace,” he said.

His teammate, Travis Landess, monitor technician at a hospital, said they never stopped, even though running was their weak point.

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