Drivers raise funds at snowmobile ride

Posted Feb. 02, 2009, at 10:17 p.m.

RANGELEY, Maine — Raising money for charity doesn’t have to be black ties or selling cookies, it can be a time for having a lot of fun.

And to those who attended the 10th Annual Busch Sport Scene Snowmobile Ride and Auction at the Club House Restaurant Saturday, it was.

Nearly 70 snowmobile riders rode around Rangeley. So many people wanted to ride that many of the rental places ran out of sleds.

“One of the comedians wanted to ride today,” said George “Soup” Campbell, who put the ride together. “The best we could do for him is [tell him to] hop on with somebody because there wasn’t a sled to be found.”

The event benefited the Maine Special Olympics, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Travis Roy Foundation, a $1,000 scholarship to Jordan Place of Turner and other charities.

“This event started 10 years ago. I didn’t start it,” said ‘Campbell, publisher and editor of Busch Sport Scene. “The girls from the Busch North Series Women’s Auxiliary put his deal together as a reason for the teams to get together in the offseason. Every weekend we saw each other, and then in the winter, nobody saw each other for four or five months. So the girls had this great idea [to get everyone together for a snowmobile trip.]”

The NASCAR Camping World Series East, formerly known as the Busch North Series, races from New Hampshire to South Carolina in cars similar to the Nationwide Series.

“Year three, the girls weren’t able to put the deal together,” Campbell added. “I thought it was a shame to end this event, so I said, ‘you know what? I’ve been sponsoring it. Why don’t I just make it happen?’ Since then, it’s just grown. I just keep doing it every year.”

Newly crowned CWSE champion Matt Kobyluck along with fellow drivers Mike Olsen, Eddie MacDonald and Mike Johnson made the trip to help raise some money for charity and to catch up with friends.

“It’s a great event that George puts on,” said Kobyluck, who was fresh off his win in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale, Calif., the week before. “It’s a great opportunity to blow off some steam and get with the guys and do a little snowmobiling and have some fun.”

Though he’s a champion on the track, Kobyluck is a bit of a rookie on the snow.

“[It’s only my] second time ever on a snowmobile,” said Kobyluck of Uncasville, Conn. “We had one other run we did, a trial run if you will, up in Vermont. It was just to make sure we didn’t have any issues when we came up here.”

Olsen arrived late for the snowmobile ride, but arrived for the raffle and auction.

“It’s a good time,” said the 2001 and 2006 CWSE champion from North Haverhill, N.H. “Everybody’s busy and stressed out, here we can get along and relax.”

Items donated to the auction included tickets to NASCAR races and Portland Sea Dogs games, golf passes, race-used memorabilia and autographed items. Kobyluck offered an old firesuit and the hood off one of his race cars.

Two of the top-selling items had nothing to do with racing. An autographed football from Tedy Bruschi of the New England Patriots netted $500 as did a signed, framed picture of Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics during the NBA Finals.

Kobyluck was a big spender as he paid nearly $1,000 for auction items.

Campbell estimated that the auction raised about $10,000.

“In the nine [previous years], we’re pretty near $80,000 raised in total,” said Campbell. “That’s a pretty good amount considering the first couple years we did this, it was basically for fun. It wasn’t a fundraiser.

“My goal [for this event] would’ve been about $20,000, so I could say we’ve raised $100,000 in 10 years.”

The scholarship winner’s father, Jim Place of Turner, won the 50/50 raffle, but returned the money. The other half of the 50/50 winnings went to the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club because “if they don’t do what they do, we wouldn’t have a place to ride,” said Campbell.

Comedy capped off the evening with Boston comics Rob Steen and Larry Myles.

Though the event is for some good causes, people seemed to be there just to have fun.

“We’ll find ourselves on a hot July day at a racetrack somewhere … during some downtime when we’re sweating bullets saying, ‘Wasn’t that fun last winter?’ ‘Yeah, we got to do that again this year.’ Next thing you know, we’re talking about snowmobiling and making plans,” said Campbell.

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