By Brooke Borba
Audacious students throughout every grade level took part in the Youth Action Commission’s latest endeavor—the Amazing Race—as part of the minimum day festivities Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Hammon Senior Center.
Nearly 50 competitors, each ranging from a second-grade Apricot Valley champion to rambunctious Patterson High School seniors, took to the field in the hopes of winning various Halloween items from the prize-winning stash after completing a series of challenges.
Just like the hit CBS TV reality show, The Amazing Race, competitors were forced to reckon with a variety of challenges in order to navigate their way through a series of clues, including a taste and agility test.
Recreation specialist Kristen Skopec of the Patterson Teen Center said this was their second attempt to bring the Amazing Race to the younger crowd, with the first beginning earlier this year in March in collaboration with the Center for Human Services. This time around, Skopec added a festive ambiance to the competition by promoting Halloween flair.
Several of the stations included eating jalapenos, performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance moves and creating a jack-o-lantern out of orange balloons.
“When we do events like this, it can get crazy behind the scenes,” said Skopec. “But, it’s great to see the kids’ faces.”
Students partnered in pairs and quickly lined up by T.N.T Production’s local DJ Rob Pacheco by 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the local senior center. Racing bibs were handed out, as well as posters for each pair to write their teams name on.
The entire competition was held in Tilton Park, just behind the Hammon Senior Center, which gave children the chance to run amuck without being struck by oncoming traffic.
“We like to keep the kids local,” said Skopec. “We wanted to make sure they were having a good time in a safe, controlled environment.”
To garner support for the event, YAC ventured into neighboring schools within the district throughout the week to achieve their objective, and found more than their fair share of support for the activities.
“It was worth it,” said volunteer Yvania Perez, 14, of Patterson High School. Perez manned the first station, which encouraged kids to eat jalapenos before advancing to the next booth. “I’m just sad that the time was so short. It was a lot of fun.”
Fellow volunteer Paola Toribio, 14, said it was just as fun to watch the contestants as it was to officiate the challenge.
“They literally attacked us,” she said about the contestants’ enthusiasm. “I thought there would be less people, but it was a great turnout.”
The teams swarmed from one station to the next, pushing their way to the top of the leaderboard. Each team vied for first, but eventually, it was Apricot Valley’s own Ayana Guardado, 10, and Sariah Perez, 9, who took first-place overall.
The fifth-grade team pulled into first during their last station, which was to create a jack-o-lantern out of an orange balloon in record time. Each took a pair of Halloween masks as their prize.
“I want to do this again!” shouted Perez. “Patterson’s awesome!”
In second-place were 13-year-old Martina Broughton and Denaye Rucker of Creekside Middle School.
“It feels good to win, but my stomach hurts from the pepper,” said Rucker. “That thing was hot!”
Despite being in last place during the jalapeno challenge, the two 13-year-old girls pulled together to finish second.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Broughton. “I’d do it again. But she’s going to eat the pepper.”
Finishing third were contestants Manuel Solorio and Dhalynn Smith, 13 of Creekside Middle School. Although Smith and Solorio finished third, the two had a chance to win first-place before one of the papers were blown from Smith’s hands. After chasing down the paper, the boys came in third.
“I had fun,” said Solorio. “Even if we lost.”
Smith agreed, even though he said his eyes were burning from the first challenge.
“Tears burst out of my eyes,” said Smith. “I tried to hold them back, like a man, but I couldn’t. We beat everyone, until the paper blew out of my hands.”
The students were in a frenzy after the friendly competition, and stuck around an hour after to participate in more competitions, held by T.N.T. Productions. Each student offered a series of ideas for YAC’s future competitions, and couldn’t help but smile after being tossed candy.
Volunteer Destiny Zaragoza said the event was a success, and couldn’t help thinking about how small competitions could deter children from harmful influences around town.
“One of the main reasons I joined YAC was to be a better person and to help out with the community,” she said. “Everyone can be themselves, but there is still this bond. We are all becoming one little family.”