The family room of Bob Schmidt’s home quickly filled with nearly 250 toys on the morning of Saturday, December 7, but the donation had very little to do with Christmas.
The toys had been collected during the end-of-season Nutmeg Kart Club (NKC) members gathering. They were donated to Newtown Lions Club with the hope that the local Lions can use them to entice more people to purchase additional tickets for next year’s Great Pootatuck Duck Race. The Lions will thank those who purchase tickets by offering them one of the small toys from the new collection when they begin selling Duck Race tickets in the spring.
“We usually donate to the Berlin Lions Club because of their help for our club,” said Erica Canfield, a Newtown resident and a member of NKC.
Mrs Canfield was one of seven members of NKC who made the early Saturday morning delivery of gifts and toys to Mr Schmidt’s home. The Berlin Lions own the fairgrounds and track used by the go cart racing club as its home base. The club was based in Shelton for its first 35 years, but relocated to a dirt track in Berlin after the end of the 2008 season.
The Nutmeg Kart Club, which boasts members not only from Connecticut but also Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and other regional states, generally makes a donation to the Berlin club as a thank you for allowing the club to use its property.
“This year, though, we asked our membership if they would consider helping Newtown,” said Mrs Canfield. “Then we contacted Bob Schmidt to see how we could help the Lions.”
Mr Schmidt is a member of Newtown Lions Club. He is the administrator of the club’s Sandy Hook Elementary Fund, which was formed shortly after 12/14 by Newtown Lions Club. The fund provides financial assistance for those seeking therapy. The fund, Mr Schmidt told The Newtown Bee in November, has paid out more than $200,000 to date in counseling reimbursements. Donations have been received from residents as well as from Lions Clubs across the country.
Mr Schmidt has also served for a number of years as chairman of The Great Pootatuck Duck Race. He accepted the donation of toys from the Nutmeg Kart Club members in his dual roles of fund administrator and Duck Race chair.
The toys, said Mrs Canfield, were gathered during the kart club’s annual end-of-year gathering, held in November at Roberto’s Restaurant in Monroe. Members were asked to donate small toys, with a value of just a few dollars, to be given to the Newtown Lions.
“Some people missed that detail in the flier we sent around,” John Latte, another member of NKC, said with a laugh.
The collection of toys delivered to the Schmidt residence included plenty of small toys — small dolls, beaded necklaces, paddle balls, and other small-ticket items — but there were also plenty of board games, craft kits, and larger ticket items in the mix.
“It’s OK,” Mr Schmidt assured the NKC members. “All of this is very much appreciated. It will all help us.”
The 2014 Great Pootatuck Duck Race, said Mr Schmidt, will return to its roots of a street fair. During its first presentations, the Duck Race took over many of the sidewalks and storefronts within the Sandy Hook Village business district. Businesses often offered specials during the hours leading up to the race, which is held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Long before the splashdown of a few thousand ducks into the Pootatuck River, the Duck Race had encouraged residents and visitors of all ages to walk around Sandy Hook Center.
In recent years, however, the Duck Race changed its focus. It was presented only within the park area at 5 Glen Road, and a much smaller percentage of people took the time to walk beyond that immediate area.
“We’ll return to a street fair setting, with all businesses involved again,” said Mr Schmidt. “We’re going to really involve all of the local businesses. The stores are going to be a larger part of it, and there will be more things for people to do.
“Sandy Hook is a small, beautiful section of town, and we’d like to remind people of that,” he said.
The toys donated by Nutmeg Kart Club, he said, will either be used on Duck Race day to encourage last-minute ticket purchases or they will be offered at the ticket sales booths set up around town in the weekends leading up to Duck Race Day — which in 2014 will be Saturday, May 24.
“We’re still deciding that,” Mr Schmidt said. “That’s going to be up to the [Lions Club] ticket sales committee.”
In addition to Mrs Canfield and Mr Latte, those who helped deliver the collection of toys were Kenneth Canfield, Kelsey and Nick Danuszar, and Evan and Cole Latte. All are members of NKC, and all are residents of Newtown.
“Everyone was so thoughtful, so nice,” Mrs Canfield said, looking over the large offering of toys. “They were happy to be able to do this.”