Editor's Note: I received this letter from a reader recently that shows the true spirit of a real racer. Even though Carlos Vieira (pictured fifth from left, below) has only been racing a short time, he has taken a selfless approach to the sport and we thought you'd like to hear about it.
I'm writing to you today to tell you about our race team. I'm the owner and driver of a team from Livingston, California. Carlos Vieira Racing Inc. is our business name, but we're known as Team 51 Fifty. We were founded in 2007 with a group of great friends with zero experience in racing.
I was 35 years old at that time and had no idea how to race or even where to go to get started. At that time, I had never even been to a race, but I knew that I wanted to race asphalt and race the type of car like the guys do in NASCAR. I found a local race shop called David's Racing Products, and walked in and spoke to the business owner, Mike David. I told him what I wanted to do and he steered me in the direction of buying a Western Late Model. After purchasing an old, used up Late Model, I showed up to the Madera Speedway in Madera, California, and started what is now a way of life for me and my team.
Another important side to our team is not only what we're doing on the track, but what we're doing off the track. In 2007, we were approached to raise money for the local Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, California. With a little effort, we raised more than $3,000.
With this success and knowing that we could help people in our community who are less fortunate than we are, I decided to hold a fundraiser dinner in 2008. We raised more than $23,000 and donated it to a local organization to help families living with autism. We received so much positive feedback on our event and how the money helped that we decided to dedicate our entire 2009 season to help raise money for autism.
We started a campaign called Race for Autism and set our goal to raise $51,000. We held multiple fundraisers that year which included a dinner, a casino night, a takeout BBQ lunch, and an event called Race and Ride for Autism. We also donated all our race winnings to the campaign, which wasn't much, but it helped.
By the end of the season we were able to raise more than $53,000. This money was donated to three separate organizations in California to help kids living with autism. We even had a day at the shop where families could bring their autistic children and take pictures in the car. During this event the team served food and had games for the kids to play. It was a great day for families struggling with the same issues to get together and share their experiences.
In 2010, our campaign and efforts continued. We added a few more fundraisers and events, such as selling fireworks for the 4th of July, we joined Walk Now for Autism in the Central Valley, and we displayed our race cars at the local county fair for autism awareness. Our race cars are decked out with autism puzzles with our Race for Autism logo blasted on the hood.
Besides raising money for autism, we also held a clothing drive to help the homeless in our community. We filled one of our race trailers with clothes and other personal items and donated it to the Merced Rescue Mission. We also sent a local church group to Haiti to help with the aftermath of the earthquake.
This year, I decided that it was time to form a non-profit organization called the Carlos Vieira Foundation. The foundation still focuses on raising money for autism, but we have expanded our fundraising efforts to help with drug prevention. We believe that our children need to be educated on how bad drugs are, and during these tough economic times, our schools and law enforcement agencies need help. We'll be working closely with our local schools and providing them the funds needed to help deter our children from drugs.
Our race team has the passion to continue to help other families and at the same time we work hard to get our cars ready to go racing, and man do we go racing. This year, we race at least three weekends out of each month with the free weekend mostly being a fundraising event. The whole team works really hard and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished.