WINDSOR — In the mass of clunkers sputtering their way through Thursday’s demolition derby at the Windsor Fair, one car is likely to stand out from all the rest. It will be the one with patriotic colors and covered in Post-it sized stickers bearing the names of those who have given their money to support the nation’s wounded veterans.

The car, which is painted red, white and blue, is part of a weeklong fundraiser for the Travis Mills Foundation sponsored by the Kennebec County Republican Committee. Members have spent this week accepting donations at their booth just inside the south entrance nearest the harness racing track. Everyone who gives, regardless of how much, is invited to write a name on a sticker. The stickers will be plastered on the car before the derby. Donations will be accepted through the end of the fair on Monday.

“This is something that someone who doesn’t have a lot of money can do,” committee member Kim Pettengill said. “They can drop off a couple of bucks.”

Pettengill said she was unsure how many people had donated, or how much had been raised, but the pace of giving began to pick up Tuesday after local news media began spreading word of the fundraiser.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “Word is getting out.”

Gerald Stillman, of Palermo, said he heard about the fundraiser while watching television and decided he had to make giving a donation part of his trek to the fair. Stillman, who has only heard of Mills, is not a veteran, but he has a brother who is.

“I’m blessed,” Stillman said after writing his brother’s name on one of the stickers.

All of the money that is raised will be given to Mills’ foundation, which has a variety of programs to help wounded and injured veterans. Mills, of Manchester, was wounded in 2012 by an improvised explosive device during his third tour in Afghanistan. Mills lost at least part of all four limbs. He is one of only five people to survive a quadruple amputation during the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mills’ foundation offers support for injured veterans, including retreats. The foundation earlier this year bought the former estate and spa of beauty magnate Elizabeth Arden in Mount Vernon and Rome and plans to begin hosting veterans in the summer of 2017. The foundation is trying to raise more than $2 million to fund the purchase and renovation.

“I would love to see a huge donation go to Travis Mills,” said Farmingdale’s Curtis Ayotte, who will drive the Republican committee’s car in the derby. “They have a huge vision to transfer the estate into a retreat. It’s going to be an expensive process, but it’s so important.”

Ayotte, an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq, has met Mills several times, but even those who haven’t have been impressed by Mills’ story and are happy to give, Pettengill said.

“I absolutely am inspired by Travis Mills and his vision to help wounded warriors,” Ayotte said. “It’s just such an honor and privilege to be able to do something to help him.”

Committee member Elaine Bridge, of Manchester, who has met Mills and keeps on her phone a photo of her and Mills to prove it, said Mills’ positive outlook and zeal for life left her energized.

“He’s a very uplifting speaker,” Bridge said. “You don’t go away feeling sorry for him.”

Pettengill’s husband, Carl Pettengill, a disabled veteran, said he has met numerous injured veterans and heard their stories and the effect their service and injuries have had on the veterans themselves and their families. Pettengill believes those stories need to be heard, and Mills is trying to do that.

“People today don’t understand it,” he said. “If they want to understand it, let them talk to Travis Mills.”

The Republican Committee has been looking for a way to support Mills since the Pettengills’ conversation with Ann LePage, wife of Gov. Paul LePage, at a function last year.

“The first lady asked us to do something,” Kim Pettengill said.

The opportunity presented itself when Ayotte, who also is a committee member, decided to enter this year’s demolition derby.

“We said, ‘If we’re going to a demolition derby, let’s raise money for a good cause,'” Ayotte said. “One of the best causes in Maine is the Travis Mills Foundation. It just came together.”

Bill Kelley, of B-K Auto in Litchfield, donated the car, a Mercury Grand Marquis. Ayotte set to work painting the tires red, the body white and the roof blue, as well as making mandated safety modifications. Ayotte said he has never participated in a demolition derby before and has little idea what to expect.

“I expect it will probably be pretty loud,” he said. “I requested a vacation day on Friday so I could recuperate.”

Those wishing to make a donation to the Travis Mills Foundation can do so at the Kennebec County Republican Committee booth inside the south entrance at the Windsor Fair or at the “donate” link at TravisMills.org. Donations also can be made on the crowd funding site GoFundMe.com/TravisMills.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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