Racing for awareness

T.J. Luedke to raise autism awareness on local race tracks
by Verla Peichl Review Correspondent


T.J. LUEDKE OF PLYMOUTH will be raising money and awareness for autism with a specially painted sprint car during the 2014 racing season, which begins this weekend. Luedke will compete at Sheboygan County Fair Park in Plymouth on Saturday night and Friday night at the Manitowoc County Expo Speedway in Manitowoc. — Review photo by Verla Peichl T.J. LUEDKE OF PLYMOUTH will be raising money and awareness for autism with a specially painted sprint car during the 2014 racing season, which begins this weekend. Luedke will compete at Sheboygan County Fair Park in Plymouth on Saturday night and Friday night at the Manitowoc County Expo Speedway in Manitowoc. — Review photo by Verla Peichl Autism Speaks is a world-wide initiative dedicated to fundraising, awareness and advocacy, and for the 2014 racing season, autism will be speaking though the roar of the sprint car driven by Travis (T.J.) Luedke of Plymouth at dirt tracks in Plymouth and Manitowoc.

Last season, Luedke drove to help the Pink Party Association for breast cancer awareness and this year he is racing for autism awareness.

Just like last year, all of he money Luedke raises through his racing in 2014 will be given to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee to support autism awareness.

“Last year we raced for Pink Party and raised $11,635 from our winnings,” said Luedke, “This year we decided we were going to be racing for autism. It was the whole team’s idea to race for autism.

“We picked autism because some of us have had contact with autistic children, either our sponsors or some of the crew members,” said Luedke. “So all of the winnings will go to the Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. We had discussed this with the sponsors, regarding what organization to help next throughout the past season, so they were aware of it.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.

These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by diffi- culties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

In May 2013, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.

Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disordernot otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues, such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some people with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.

Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. In addition, autism is probably one of the least funded illnesses for research.

“Some facts about Children’s Hospital is that the program works for them mainly through donations,” said Luedke. “So because that’s how it works, from donations, the operation of it wouldn’t be possible without help.

“About 52 percent of the money to Children’s Hospital comes through with Medicare and about 48 percent comes with the help of donations,” he said. “ That’s how they are able to buy equipment and help just with day-to-day expenses. That’s why it’s very important to be able to donate to them.”

Just as last year, when the T.J. Motorsports car was painted pink for breast cancer awareness, this year’s car also has a special paint scheme.

“We decided on the colors because autism is symbolized with puzzle pieces due to its complexity,” said Luedke. “So the car is covered with puzzle pieces and it was designed by R.C. Custom Design in Fredonia. We will be selling autism apparel under the grandstand and we are also going to be selling puzzle pieces for $1.

“R.C. Designs has put together a huge puzzle which covers our spare wing for the car, and the puzzle pieces which are sold can them be put in place on that spare wing,” he said. “At the last night of racing at Plymouth, we will race with that wing. We are hoping that all the pieces will be filled. The kids will be able to put their puzzle piece on the wing all by themselves after the pits open at the end of each night of racing. All of the money from the selling of those pieces will also be put into the fund to be given to autism. We also will have a second helmet lettered with puzzle pieces that will be raffled off at the end of the season. Behling’s Racing of Franklin is helping with the cost of that helmet.”

T.J.Motorsports and crew are all excited about the upcoming season. They hope to raise at least $10,000. which was their goal last year, and they topped that amount through all of the efforts of sponsors and race fans.

The 2014 racing season is scheduled to get under way this Friday, May 2, at the Manitowoc Expo Speedway and Saturday, May 3, at Sheboygan County Fair Park in Plymouth.

To keep informed of what’s happening, visit www.facebook.com/TjMotorsports and check out the section Racing For a Cause.

This entire project could not be possible without the help of Luedke’s sponsors. They are extremely important for Luedke’s entire season. Sponsors include: G. Schneider Electric, C&I Manufacturing, Majestic Crossing Dairy, TJ’s Custom Harvesting, Premier Insurance Solutions LLC, Luedke Farms, Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizer, Country Equipment Service, Doug’s Skip’er Inn, High Performance Fuels - A Division of Waldo Oil, JW Welding, Kaiser Wrecking, Keizer Wheels, Mueller Sales and Service, Mr. & Mrs. Fireman John, Performance Propane, RC Custom Design, Revolutions Engine Development, Scott’s Excavating, Tangles Salon, Thunder Express Percheron’s and Warren Luedke Auctioneering.


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