Famous Fireball Run – Astronaut and Hometown Girl Find Missing Children

“JJ” Sanchez, Executive Producer of Fireball Run, with kids at the kickoff. Sanchez serves as Government & Civic Affairs Liaison and directs overall production of the Fireball Run.

“You’ve blown the lid right off !” Fireball Run Adventurally planners told Lee Harkness after their 4-day visit to Jamestown. “Jamestown is way above expectations. We didn’t know anyplace like it existed in the U.S.A.”

Lee Harkness, Executive Director of the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation, was quoting Universal Studios Florida Executive Producer, “JJ” Sanchez, and the planning team for this year’s “Fireball Run–Northern Exposure.” To learn more, readers can go to YouTube and simply type in: “Jamestown NY Fireball Run.”

“The team at Universal Studios has dubbed Jamestown the ‘best kept secret in the nation’,” Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said. “If that’s the case, we’re hoping to reveal that secret in a big way on the national stage.” All 40 teams of the Fireball Run will come roaring into Jamestown on Sunday afternoon, September 23, starting at 4:30 p.m. and line up at the bottom of Lafayette Street by the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena.

The Welcoming Committee will be composed of anybody and everybody who wants to meet the amazing Adventurally teams, the 86 drivers and navigators, and see many cars unlike any ever seen in Jamestown, New York. The teams will be staying for the night and touring Jamestown’s many sights and wonders.

The cars will include a Lamborghini Aventadon, listing at nearly $380,000, a limited edition Devon GTX, a Fisker Karma, the most advanced hybrid ever to hit the road and even a car billed as “worth $2 million.” In past years, Fireball has also boasted the “real” Batmobile and the “Back to the Future” Delorean Time Machine Car.

Actually, the cars will enter Jamestown politely and quietly. Fireball Run’s Executive Producer and the Rally Rule Book dole out severe penalties for any car that breaks any speed limit anywhere along the 8-day, 15 city, 2,500 mile route from Independence, Ohio to Bangor, Maine. The famous race is now in its 6th year. The 2007 Inaugural Fireball Run Transcontinental Rally took its drivers from Orlando Florida to Beverly Hills California with stops in five cities along the route in 9 days.

Although the Fireball Run is a nation-spanning road rally with an online trivia game for fans to follow and play along the entire route, the Fireball website promises, “…there is nothing trivial about its purpose or results. Fireball Run is often referred to as ‘the most fun you will ever have, doing the most important thing you’ve ever done’.”

Geoff Bodine, NASCAR, IROC, Winston and Daytona racing champ (and fan): A Fireball supporter and participant.

Each team is assigned a missing child from their home region and provided thousands of posters to distribute along the route. A decal featuring the child is affixed to the vehicle, creating a rolling awareness campaign. “It’s the old milk carton with brand new horsepower,” one fan said. To date, the effort has assisted in the recovery of 38 missing children. Fireball Run’s philanthropic campaign called the Race to Recover America’s Missing Children is the largest active recovery effort for missing and exploited children in the country.

This year, Jamestown will welcome back one of its own as a Fireball Run driver; Jamestown’s hometown girl Leanne Cusimano with Fireball Team 6—PT Cruiser “Ogunquit A GoGo” from Ogonquit, Maine.

Cusimano’s grandfather was a chef at Hotel Jamestown and the Town Club during the Great Depression and her dad, Tony Cusimano, was a DJ at WXYJ (now WKSN “Kissin’ Oldies 1340 AM”). Leanne, born in Jamestown, is now the owner of Amore Breakfast and Café Amore, the most popular breakfast spots in the beach resort town of Ogunquit, Maine, also a destination city along the Fireball route. Team 6-Ogunquit A GoGo’s navigator, manning the iPad, the GPS and even a few old fashioned paper roadmaps, will be Robert Levinstein, owner of New York City’s 22Q Entertainment.

Leanne Cusimano’s cousins, singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant -a Jamestown native-and Natalie’s brother Chris Merchant, who owns and operates The Mariner’s Pier Restaurant on the corner of Spring and 3rd Street in downtown Jamestown, remain as Leanne’s family ties in the community. “I am sooooo excited to be stopping there,” Leanne says, “and yes, besides the stop Fireball Run is making in Ogunquit, the Jamestown stop sealed the deal for me!”

Cusimano and Levinstein have been assigned a 14-ear-old girl from Staten Island, NY, Joeline Thomas, classified as an endangered teen, who was last seen in public on October 9, 2011. Cusimano’s commitment to youth is also expressed in her active community service on several non-profit Boards and her work as a volunteer at The Dominica Orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

What it’s all about. The Fireball Run helps find missing children nationwide.

At a minimum, each team in the Fireball Run can expect entry fees, gas, meals, insurance and other expenses to top $10,000 and possibly reach $20,000 for the event. It is a serious contribution by deeply committed people to the critical work of recovering as many as possible of the 2,000 children who go missing every day in the United States.

One of the 2011 Fireball teams, NASCAR legend Geoff Bodine and NASA Space Shuttle Astronaut Winston Scott, were directly instrumental in recovering two kidnapped children. They were found in a homeless shelter near Seattle, Washington, based on the pictures and information on the missing child posters the celebrity team distributed. Each team is given 1,000 posters of a missing child from their region with the requirement to distribute them all along their Fireball route. This year, former NASA Astronaut Capt. Jon A. McBride joins Team Space Coast in its Race to Recover America’s Missing Children.

“This is a life changing and humbling experience for every team and driver,” says David Hickman, Executive Vice President for Fireball Marketing. “The teams have already been

credited with recovering 38 children. But they touch thousands of lives along the way and help raise awareness in untold ways. It becomes intensely personal and meaningful.”

While in Jamestown, the teams will share a dinner at the newly renovated downtown Erie-Lackawanna Train Station and be given an opportunity to tour the Jackson Center, Roger Tory Peterson and Fenton Centers, Lucy-Desi and the Ice Arena, Cummins Engine, Panama Rocks and to meet with the 10,000 Maniacs at Infinity.

On Monday Morning, at 8:30, the drivers will check in and offer a photo op for fans and spectators. At 9:00, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi will drop the Green Flag on Lafayette Street to start the Fireballers on the way to the their next stop, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

“It’s not every day you have an exciting event backed by a name like Universal Studios, that draws an international crowd,” Mayor Teresi said, “and create such a local stir like the Fireball Run Adventurally. This real-life board game will play out on our streets and in our world-class attractions, garnering unprecedented, positive attention for the City of Jamestown.”

Fireball promises, “It’s gonna be a Yankee Doodle Dandy! The Fireball Run Adventurally for 2012 is coming to Jamestown Sunday, September 23 at 4:30 p.m. If you thought Fireball Run: Southern Excursion for 2011 was historic-you’ve only seen half of America’s story. Forty teams literally go head-to-head competing in 2012’s Fireball Run: Northern Exposure.

To learn everything about The Famous Fireball Run click on http://www.fireballrun.com/. For Fireball Run updates on your mobile phone text “fireballrun” to 801-903-2786. If you’re interested in following the action live on-line go to http://www.fireballrun.com/live.

2007 FIREBALL RUN: 1966 BatMobile, Driver Nate Truman, Producer Entertainment Tonight