Fireball Runners Spotlight Missing Children

Philanthropy

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY SEP 15, 2015

Could a race where the cars are decorated not with corporate logos but with pictures of missing children actually help to bring some babies home? The hope in some cases may be dim, but five separate teams with Sarasota roots will do their best as part of the Fireball Run later this month. Now in its 9th year, the 10-day race event will spread the word about dozens of missing people, and raise awareness of the general problem.

“Most of the kids are runaways,” says Bibi Ohlsson, part of Team Bronco. “How can we as adults bring awareness to what is happening?” She and husband Richard will run to represent Wendy Hudakoc, a Naples girl missing since 1998. Hudakoc would be in her 30s now, and if she is still alive, Ohlsson would love to think the race gets word out that it’s never to late to come home. 

The race features dozens of teams this year moving through different cities and solving puzzles along the way. The whole time, the missing children will be publicized. Already, teams have met with their own local officials to raise awareness. Sarasota teams sat with Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw and handed over piles of posters to be distributed in this community.

After this many seasons, hundreds of children have been represented by various teams, and 45 of those children have returned home alive. Sarasota philanthropist Ariane Dart, part of the Kirk’s Angels team this year, actually represented a child in 2012 who has since returned home safely to her father. Dart, who won last year’s Fireball Run, will get the lead spot in the race this year. For the second year in a row, she represents Alexander Erb-Sanchez of Ellenton, who disappeared as a baby in 2008. “It’s just so heartbreaking,” she said. “But every poster we hand out is one step closer to potentially get them home.”

The race this year, dubbed The Space Race and featuring four teams with astronauts, runs from Sept. 25-Oct. 3. Webcasts of the race will be streamed at the website fireballrun.com, and footage will later be edited into 13 episodes to be viewed on Netflix. 

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan: Fireball Run teams raise awareness at Sarasota City Hall.

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