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Chevy Chase resident races for charity

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Published on: Thursday, October 18, 2012

By Daryl Buchanan

 CHEVY CHASE -There all sorts of ways to raise money for charity, but one Chevy Chase resident raises money for children while going 170 miles per hour a world away.

Pete Olson, born in Irvine, California but raised in Chevy Chase is a graduate of the Landon School and attended Boston University. He’s been racing formula cars since 2003. 

Olson has decades of experience racing motorcycles, karts, and Indy cars as well. He is currently racing Formula Renault in Asia and this is where his charity work for children on the race track began.

“After years of karting and motorcycle racing I had already been sponsoring a little girl in Thailand for several years through ChildFund, formerly Christian Children’s Fund. During my first formula car race weekend in 2003 at Laguna Seca Raceway in California I saw some drivers putting large decals on for sponsors and having professional photos taken,” said Olson.

“I figured why not put the Christian Children’s Fund website on my car and get some photos taken. The concept turned out to be a big hit. It was win-win all around, as Christian Children’s Fun received free publicity to help generate more sponsors for children in need and I receive exposure for my racing career.”

Olson says he doesn’t receive any portion of the donations made to ChildFund. He says after discussions with ChildFund they formalized their efforts and named it “Racing for Children and their exposure has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since through news and sports outlets.

Olson says the donations made to ChildFund through its continued exposure in the media goes to their global mission of changing children’s lives by providing basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, education, and infrastructure.

“I think it’s important to give something back in life if you can. I feel very privileged to have the upbringing and opportunities that I’ve been blessed with, starting from the very beginning with my adoption. My mother couldn’t afford my upbringing and gave me up in the hopes for a better life,” said Olson. 

With much of his time spent in Asia racing Olson has hopes of returning home and entering more American races while continuing his charity work with the goal of reaching Formula One racing.

“My goal in the next couple of seasons is to move back home and race Indy Lights, then Indy car. The normal path to Indy is at least a season in Indy Lights. Indy Lights is a North American series with most of the races in America and a few in Canada,” said Olson. “So I expect to make the move home and be racing in North America within the next couple of seasons.”

Olson is also aware that as a child he was given more opportunities than many other children around the world and said that is a big motivator for his charitable efforts.

“With all that I’ve been so fortunate to have a loving family, education, and the opportunity to follow my childhood dreams of racing. I feel that I’ve been so lucky, especially when there are people in the world who don’t have things as simple as clean water, things like this we don’t even think about and take for granted,” said Olson.

“I figured why not give something back, with all the media generated as part of my profession as a racing driver and the angle is like no other. The excitement of auto racing is a unique venue to generate publicity for ChildFund.”

To date Olson is sponsoring his fourth child with the help of ChildFund. He says giving back and helping others is something that his family instilled in him at a young age. “My parents have always been active in charity work and really instilled in us that it was important to give to those less fortunate,” said Olson. “It is large part of the reason why I started sponsoring the first child in ChildFund. I figured I had no excuse to not make room in my spending for what amounted to a cup of coffee a day.”

For more information on Pete Olson, Racing for Children, and ChildFund visit www.peteolson.com and http://blog.childfund.org/. 

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