By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS, firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVERSE CITY — They may not have to scarf starfish in Beijing or cross crocodile-infested waters in Botswana. But Nicci and Wade Rosted are prepared to do whatever it takes to win The Amazing Race for Bethany Kids.
"He and I end up in arguments when I drive," said Nicci Rosted, 36. "So I'll navigate, he'll drive."
The couple are among up to 40 teams that will compete in today's race, a fundraiser for Bethany Christian Services' foster care and older child adoption programs. Inspired by the long-running TV reality series, "The Amazing Race," the road rally-style event has teams racing to complete challenges at various area locations to get the clue to their next destination. The team that finishes in the least amount of time takes home the top prize.
"The main difference from the TV show is that the show has 12 people start at the same time and go to the same destination," said co-coordinator Nancy Mercier. "We needed more than 12 teams to make money, so we planned to have (several) teams start at (each) location. And the other difference is that they won't be doing scary challenges."
The Rosteds moved from Cadillac to Traverse City in May and say they still don't know the area well — which may give them a disadvantage.
"I'll be asking for help," said Nicci Rosted, adding that the couple may drive around town first to familiarize themselves with possible challenge locations like ropes courses. "I'm not shy. I'll pull over and ask."
The action begins at 1 p.m. at Bill Marsh GMC Automotive Group on Garfield, with local radio personality Ron Jolly as host. New teams must register there by noon; teams can include up to six members 18 or older. The cost per team ranges from $150 to $250 per car.
Smaller teams mean more challenges for each to solve and a bigger slice of the prize, Mercier said. Larger teams mean less cost per person, time with more family and friends, and more brainpower to help solve each clue.
Mercier said teams are given a tube of lip balm, a map, a phone book, a notepad and a pencil and bring their own water, cell phone, rainy weather gear and sunscreen. GPS units are optional.
Rosted also plans to stock up a cooler in the couple's minivan.
"Hopefully there will be no bathroom breaks," she said.
Aside from nature calls, teams will get time penalties if they fail to complete challenges in a certain amount of time or if they show poor sportsmanship like pushing, shoving, using foul language or driving hazardously.
"You can't race," said Rosted, a former high school soccer player. "It's a bit of a relief because the (competitive drive) of both my husband and I could cause a lead foot. I guess it's keeping a level head and staying calm and thinking, 'Where do we have to go?'"
The Amazing Race is one of two annual fundraisers for Bethany, the largest adoption agency in the U.S., with an office in Traverse City. The Christian nondenominational agency licenses and recruits foster families; finds permanent adoptive homes for children; provides pregnancy counseling; and arranges for private and state domestic adoptions and international adoptions from several countries.
The race also is part of an effort to reach out to the broader community and not just Bethany supporters, said Mercier, who planned the mostly volunteer-run event with Co-Coordinator Lisa Niergarth and a handful of other Bethany staff. Although Mercier had seen the show only once and had to watch episodes online to catch up, the series has won eight Primetime Emmy Awards and premieres its 17th edition Sept. 26.
"People are so into reality TV," she said. "We thought this would be fun and something we could do every year."
As the mother of four young children, including three who were adopted, Rosted said she rarely gets TV time for adults. But she once organized an "Amazing Race"-style event for second-graders at Cadillac's St. Ann Elementary and said she believes today's race will be along similar lines.
"It was fun. It was hysterical," she said. "They always have something really disgusting (on the show) so I did a 'Puzzle or Guzzle.' The kids could either put together a puzzle or guzzle unsweetened Kool-Aid. I thought I'm probably going to get my payback at some point. I'll probably have to eat something disgusting."
Mercier said the nine indoor and outdoor challenges range from athletic to "mind" challenges and could include anything from shelving books at a library to milking a cow at a farm.
"Once they complete the challenge they get the next clue," she said. "But they have to decipher the clue. It's not just, 'Here's your next destination.'"
Rosted is hoping that her husband's head for facts and trivia give the couple an edge.
"He graduated summa cum laude, and his brain holds tons of information that mine won't," she said.
A dinner and awards presentation with entertainment takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at an undisclosed location. Hint: It's the last destination of the race.