The Amazing Race came to Cheektowaga today, as 20 teams of adults and children weathered six "challenge stations" in a contest designed to encourage cooperation and bonding between the children and their parents or grandparents.
The Great Amazing Race competition in Stiglmeier Park was intended to be fun, but also required members of each team to work together.
Over the course of 60 to 90 minutes, amid an occasional drizzle, the teams ran or jogged 250 yards across a grassy field from station to station. They hopped across laundry baskets, wrapped each other in toilet paper, golfed, fished, gave each other horseback rides to carry a wet sponge to a bucket, and walked the bases blindfolded with their partners guiding them by verbal command only.
"This entire thing is about parents and kids working together," said Greg Benton, president of Flying Colors Sports, a Cincinnati-based marketing and community relations firm. The firm works with professional athletes and runs The Amazing Race program in every city with an NFL franchise. The Buffalo program was only the second this year, after it started on Saturday in Indianapolis. It moves to Dallas next weekend.
The program is modeled after the hit reality television show, "The Amazing Race," but is also done in conjunction with the NFL and local teams. Often, individual players from the local team are on hand to speak to the parents and their children about the importance of good nutrition and exercise, as part of the NFL Play 60 campaign to encourage kids to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day to reduce childhood obesity.
"It's nice. It's exactly what I was expecting. I was just expecting more people," said Christine Stuber, 46, of Cheektowaga. She said she was having "a nail-biting good time" taking pictures, laughing and cheering while her 14-year-old daughter, Kayla, and 10-year-old son, Adam, struggled to cast the fishing line.
The Buffalo Bills marketed the event on both sides of the international border, but no Bills players were present, as the contest occurred while the Bills were playing the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.
One of the race teams consisted of Joe Bogumil, 60, of Getzville, and his 4-year-old grandson, Owen, who lives in the Boston area. The youngster's parents were at the football game. The Bills lost, 52-28.
"It's great. I just wanted to have fun with my son and be a little competitive," said Joann Wilks, 46, of Williamsville. Her teammate, her 10-year-old son, Cole, agreed. "I like that I get to spend time with my mom, and it's fun."
The national program originally started as a way to give kids a chance to compete against - and meet - NFL players. It began with a camp and then an obstacle course, before evolving to its current form, with kids paired with a parent, grandparent, sibling or mentor. The race series also supports the "30-Minutes-A-Day" family and academic initiative, a national program that encourages physical exercise, reading books and eating healthy to improve both academic performance and family life.
Under the contest rules, the top 25 local teams qualify for the National Championship Race, with a $2,000 prize, so all 20 Buffalo-area teams would be eligible.