There are two main reasons why NASCAR star Geoff Bodine is driving across the country on a scavenger hunt: 4-year-old Trust Everitt and 9-year-old Journey Everitt.
The siblings have been missing for nearly a year, and Bodine hopes they are soon found. The mission brought him and teams of other people, including an astronaut and an actor, to Bowling Green on Thursday during the 2011 Chevrolet Fireball Run Adventurally.
Teams of people have been driving around the country since Saturday, stopping in different cities where they receive assignments and directions to their next location. By this Saturday, they will have traveled 2,500 miles and stopped in 15 cities, including Bowling Green and Scottsville.
It’s a fun activity for participants, but it’s also a project to raise awareness of missing children. Their vehicles are plastered with faces of missing children from their areas, and they hand out fliers of missing children at each stop.
“It’s the ‘Amazing Race’ meets ‘Without a Trace,’ ” said David Hickman, executive director of the race. “It allows us to see a lot of great places, like the Corvette Museum.”
The team stopped at the National Corvette Museum after receiving an assignment to buy toys and drop them off there. The toys were delivered to the local Boys & Girls Club. Earlier in the day, the race took the participants to Scottsville, where they visited the J.M. Smucker plant and picked up Uncrustable sandwiches to give to a charitable organization in Clarksville, Tenn.
In fact, Scottsville was a favorite destination for many racers simply because of the warm welcome they received. Thousands of Scottsville residents, including elected leaders, lined the streets to greet the racers, they said.
“You talk about a reception,” said Kevyn Major Howard, an actor and activist. “They had open arms and it put a smile on our faces so big. Scottsville, I’m coming back.”
Howard got involved with the race through J. Sanchez, the race producer who knows Howard and contacted him about the race.
“I think our nation is going through a lot of moral compass issues,” he said. “This was a way to get the attention of 2-year-olds and 92-year-olds.”
The racers ate lunch at the Corvette museum, signed autographs and showed off their vehicles. Some were traveling in over-the-top cars, such as the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and a sheriff’s cruiser used in “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Robert Fox of Fort Myers, Fla., was part of a group that dubbed itself the Mayberry Team. They were traveling in the cruiser that a team member - and Andy Griffith fanatic - recently purchased.
Like many other racers, Fox’s favorite stop was the small town of Scottsville.
“We didn’t want to leave there,” he said. “They shut down the whole town.”
Rick Kenderdine also was itching to return to Scottsville. He shipped his vehicle from Canada to Florida, where the race began, and then flew from his home to take part in the race. For Kenderdine and his teammate, the race is more than a road trip.
“It’s kids. Both of us are family men,” he said. “We can’t imagine what it’s like to lose your own child.”
Since the race began in 2007, it has helped find 36 missing children across the country, Hickman said.
As Bodine signed autographs for two boys, the NASCAR star said he hopes someone spots Trust and Journey Everitt, the missing children he is sponsoring.
“I have two boys and four granddaughters, and I know exactly where they’re at,” he said. “The dad is in the Air Force … and he misses those two kids. You can hear the hurt in his heart. That’s why we’re doing that, to mend that hurt.”