As the Fireball Run roars into town this weekend, at least one participant is excited to roll into her hometown.
Leanne Cusimano, from Ogunquit, Maine, has ties to several of the Fireball Run stops. But, she says her memories of Jamestown are a big part of what influenced her decision to join.
"I have very fond memories from family gatherings and holidays through the years. I'm proud to say that I'm from Jamestown and can't wait to come back and bring some excitement to the town," Cusimano said.
Jamestown native Leanne Cusimano of Ogunquit, Maine, and her friend and Fireball Run partner Robert Levinstein will make their way to Jamestown during the Fireball Run.
Cusimano, along with longtime friend Robert Levinstein, form team 'Ogunquit A GoGo.' They will be driving a surf-themed PT Cruiser, complete with stickers to look like wooden side panels and a surfboard on top. Additionally, the vehicle has a speaker which will be playing surf tunes during parades and appearances.
"Neither one of us surf, but we're just going to be these wannabes. Think retro beach-blanket bingo kind of theme," Cusimano said.
The Fireball Run is a Universal Studios production. In the course of eight days, participants will travel to Independence, Ohio; Jamestown; Wellsboro, N.Y.; Watertown, N.Y.; Schenectady, N.Y.; Waterbury, Conn.; Ogunquit, Maine; and Bangor, Maine. It is considered to be one of the largest recovery efforts for missing children in America.
"The reality is, the first 48 hours are crucial to finding a missing child," Cusimano said. "It could be a runaway, it could be an abduction, it could be a family member who thinks they should have custody and takes the kid. They're all from the Missing and Abducted Children National Bureau."
This year, around 40 teams are involved in the run, which also includes missions in each of the cities. Each team must complete their mission as well as pass out missing children flyers. An estimated 40,000 will be put up over the course of the run.
"The good news is, 38 kids have been found as a direct result of these posters having gone up. They want to see more. That's not good enough for them. It's not good enough for any of us," Cusimano said.
Cusimano first learned about the Fireball Run in May, when some of the organization's production people attended a monthly chamber meeting in the town. During the meeting, they spoke about the run, what it meant to Ogunquit and the overall premise of what they were doing.
Becoming involved in the Fireball Run is something that Cusimano wrestled with at first, though. She owns side-by-side restaurants in Ogunquit, Amore Breakfast and Cafe Amore, and has never left either business for an extended amount of time.
After speaking with the Chamber Director and wrestling with her own indecision, Cusimano decided to get a team together.
"It just seemed like the more I heard about it, the more I felt like I wanted to be a part and do my part," Cusimano said.
She and Levinstein worked to secure sponsors and a vehicle for the event. Cusimano said the PT Cruiser is like a rolling billboard, thanks to sponsorship from Ogunquit hotels, restaurants and shops. Additionally, the PT Cruiser was given to the team at a drastically reduced price.
"They have completely supported us. No one turned us down. Everyone that we approached said, 'Absolutely, we want to be part of this, too,'" Cusimano said.
RETURNING TO JAMESTOWN
Although it has been about 20 years since Cusimano has last returned to the area, she is looking forward to bringing her excitement back.
Aside from working to accomplish missions, Cusimano will be visiting relatives, some of whom she has not seen in many years. Each night, there will also be a rally in each host city. The rally will give the public a chance to see each Fireball Run vehicle up close, meet the drivers and receive autographs. Additionally, Fireball Run trading cards will be available.
"I'm very excited and anxious to get to the Jamestown rally, meet people and have them welcome me home. I left when I was very young," Cusimano said.
The Fireball Run kicks off Friday in Independence, Ohio. According to the official website, the Fireball Run will arrive in Jamestown Sept. 23, and depart on Sept. 24. For more information, visit fireballrun.com.
"Everything has come together seamlessly," Cusimano said. "It's all meant to be. I feel that in my heart and soul that this was meant to happen."