What do race cars and Bernie’s Book Bank have in common? While there is a possibility that some of the 300,000 at-risk Chicagoland children we serve may receive a book about racecars in their bag, all of the children benefit from the incredible “Laps for Literacy” partnership created by the CTX SPEED race team.
Laps for Literacy gives racers, sponsors and spectators the opportunity to pledge $1 (or more) per lap to support the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank. Additionally, the CTX SPEED drivers proudly display the Bernie’s Book Bank Laps for Literacy logo on their cars to raise awareness.
Twenty-three-year-old Thomas Bernacki, CTX SPEED driver of the #34 Mazda Miata, has been racing for 14 years. In this time, he has moved from racing go-karts to racing in the Sports Car Club of America series and now the Global MX-5 Cup series.
In 2014 Thomas and his teammates at CTX SPEED expressed a desire to dedicate their racing to something bigger than themselves. They chose to support Bernie’s Book Bank by creating a pledge program connected to the laps they complete, and in 2015 Laps for Literacy was born.
“I was attracted to the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank because I believe that developing one’s literacy skills by reading at an early age is vital to their success in life,” Thomas shared. “It is a privilege to be able to support Bernie’s Book Bank through my racing and the Laps for Literacy program. It makes every lap that I complete that much more important for me because I know that I am helping at-risk children in my local community.”
Since Laps for Literacy launched in 2015 CTX SPEED has raised over $10,000 for Bernie’s Book Bank. This unique program has received positive feedback and support from the racing community.
“Over the last few seasons, several drivers have come forward to pledge their support to Bernie’s Book Bank by participating in the Laps for Literacy program at major race events such as at the Chicago Region June Sprints,” Thomas noted. “It’s a charitable cause that everyone can relate to.”
Thomas is not alone in his quest to provide books for at-risk Chicagoland children. His CTX SPEED teammates, Paul Kwiecinski and Matthew Novak, also serve as ambassadors for this program. Together, they work to improve as drivers and support Bernie’s Book Bank.
“It has been a great experience to have Paul and Matthew as teammates. I have worked to help them find more speed and to be more comfortable in their driving over the last few seasons and to see them improve is really encouraging to myself and to the team as a whole,” Thomas expressed. “By finding more speed as a team and feeding off the positive energy from each other, we become more determined to consistently make every single lap count for Bernie’s Book Bank.”
Thomas looks forward to the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Challenge November 9-11 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. There he will bring Laps for Literacy to an even larger stage as he competes against drivers from across the country and across the world.
Although the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Challenge will close out the season for Thomas, he sees no end in sight for Laps for Literacy.
“I see the program continuing to grow into the professional aspect of auto racing through our team’s transition from the grassroots level into professional series such as the Global MX-5 Cup Series and IMSA,” Thomas concluded. “The ultimate goal is to invite participation from all drivers and teams from the series across all levels. It would be fantastic to know that every driver in the paddock would be driving to benefit Bernie’s Book Bank.”