Monday, September 01, 2008

The Art of Giving Back

I always enjoy hearing of racers who make it possible for others to appreciate and enjoy the same sorts of excitment that we do. Here is a nice article from Mexico in the Atencion San Miguel newspaper worthy of reading about the LT Special driven by Sam Burg and co-piloto Dyana Marlett and maintained by Mat Hammerland. Be sure and check out Mat's new website.
The ride of a lifetime
By Cathy Cooper Long

After yet another first-place Panamericana win in 2007, two crashes and a complete overhaul and rebuild, the famous Mexican race car, the LT Special, made its comeback debut at the Jardin in San Miguel on Sunday, August 17.

The event was the conclusion of a fundraiser begun in October of last year by Feed the Hungry (FTH), San Miguel’s children’s charity.

The LT Special—owned by Lerdo de Tejada, and built and maintained by Mats Hammarlund Racing here in San Miguel—is an exact replica of the only race car ever built in Mexico. The original car, built in the fifties and the only one of its kind in the world, is priceless and no longer races. But its clone has won La Carrera Panamericana a total of four times, including last year, and the sleek red machine was given a hero’s welcome at the event at the Jardín.

“It is definitely a crowd pleaser. The car is very noisy; it’s very bright; it’s very special and…it is very, very fast,” said Mats Hammarlund, who rebuilt the car after last year’s Panamericana. Hammarlund and his hot-red hot-rod were at Sunday’s event on behalf of FTH and the lucky winners of last year’s raffle. A total of six winners were drawn from hundreds of raffle tickets sold in October, 2007. The prize: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride in the renowned race car.

A large and curious crowd gathered round as the race car, which could be heard two to three blocks away, thundered into the Jardín for the event. Gleaming in the midday sun and basking in the glow of last year’s victory, not so much as a single fingerprint marred its lustrous scarlet finish. The spectacle was such that onlookers shielded their eyes and covered their ears!

Emiliano Tristan, the first winner to claim his prize, brought his toddler son along for the ride. The little boy, not yet two years old, slept through the commotion and had to be gently awakened from his nap. Eventually he roused, and then seemed underwhelmed by the car and overwhelmed by the crowds and all the attention he got. His father, however, couldn’t hide his excitement at getting to ride in the LT Special. “I have always liked cars a lot, so I have been looking forward to this for a very long time. It is very special.”

Another raffle prize winner, Duane Eriksmoen, is coincidentally a volunteer and board member of FTH. Full of anticipation and anxious to redeem his prize, Eriksmoen was the first winner to arrive at the Jardín, but the last to take his ride in the famed race car. “I’ve been waiting for eight months. What’s another couple of hours?” he asked good naturedly. “I’ve been like a 10-year-old kid, waiting for the ride of my life!”

In addition to the raffle winners, two very lucky and very special young visitors from Los Angeles got a chance to take a spin in the passenger’s seat—lucky because they happened to be in the right place at the right time; special because, after hearing about the work done by FTH for thousands of children in and around San Miguel, they decided to give part of their personal savings to the nonprofit organization to help it continue its work.

Nine-year-old Hanah Daines said, “I wanted to spend my ‘charity money’ on children. The pictures in the brochure tell the story. Feed the Hungry makes kids happier.”

Her 11-year-old brother, Noah, also made the same choice and both children made their decision before they had any idea they’d be rewarded with a ride in the race car. Their mother, Barberry Gray Byfield, explained: “Their charity money is part of their allowance. They each set aside one-third every year, and then they decide how to donate it.”

Horst Tutepastell, a FTH board member and organizer of the event, set up a tent and booth alongside the race car to spread the word about FTH, answer questions, recruit volunteers and give interviews to reporters from El Sol de Bajio and Azteca’s Canal 4. He said that FTH’s part of Sunday’s event was also a success. “The race car is a hit,” he said, “but we have had many inquiries about FTH as well. We received donations today and got new volunteers. We couldn’t ask for a better turnout; we are very grateful.”

Perhaps Hammarlund, the builder and driver of the LT Special, summed it up best when he said, “This is great fun, but it is also a wonderful cause. FTH is highly respected, locally and nationally. I like their work, and I love to help however I can.”

FTH is a nonprofit organization which builds, operates and maintains 35 kitchens in San Miguel and the surrounding ranchos. A thirty-sixth kitchen is underway. A hot nutritious meal is provided to almost 4,000 kindergarten and primary school children every school day.

For more information, contact Feed the Hungry San Miguel, Inc. (a 501(c)3 corp.),, 220 N. Zapata Hwy., Suite 11, Laredo, TX 78043; La Conexión, Aldama 3, San Miguel de Allende, Gto 37700, or call 52 (415) 152-2402 in Mexico or (505) 349-3700 in the US.

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