United Way kicks off campaign at Waterford Speedbowl

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor David Starr, right, autographs a replica model of his No. 81 Zachary Holdings Inc. Toyota Tundra race truck for Mike Gaiewski, left, 16, of Mystic Wednesday during the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut 2012 fall fundraising campaign kickoff at Waterford Speedbowl.

Waterford - While poor weather throughout Wednesday forced the cancellation of racing at the Waterford Speedbowl, there were still plenty of people gathered at the racetrack who were intent on showing their support for a worthy cause.

The United Way of Southeastern Connecticut held a kickoff event Wednesday night for its fall fundraising campaign.

The event included a picnic and a chance to meet David Starr, the driver of the No. 81 Toyota Tundra on NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.

Event sponsors and organizers held a brief presentation on the Speedbowl's racetrack in which they introduced a new fundraising team for the coming campaign. Others from local companies who started fundraising in June were also recognized.

"The United Way has been instrumental in helping the communities in which we work," said Ken Ewell, the senior vice president for Zachry Nuclear Engineering, which co-sponsored the event and also sponsors Starr.

United Way officials did not announce a fundraising goal for the campaign.

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of people who live and work in New London County and strengthen the community through local health and human service programs.

United Way supports programs which improve community wellness, help children thrive, supply basic human needs and promote independence.

The seven-member fundraising team introduced Wednesday included people from the Southeastern Connecticut Labor Council, Northeast Utilities and Charter Oak Federal Credit Union. AFT Connecticut, United Community and Family Services, UAW Local 2121 and Zachry Nuclear Engineering were the others.

Five workers from Electric Boat in Groton also will be on loan from the company to help with the fundraising effort.

Rick Calvert of the Child and Family Agency, Ray Hackett of the Norwich Bulletin, Pam Kinder of UCFS and Brian Ornstein of Charter Oak Federal Credit Union were also recognized for fundraising efforts.

Calvert helped raise $17,459. Kinder helped spearhead her organization's total gift of $17,277 and Ornstein's company donated $56,902. Hackett and the Bulletin had a 77 percent increase in donations from the previous year.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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