When Randy Rutkai was 12, he built a working four-person hovercraft from a design he found in a Popular Mechanics magazine. It took him two years to complete.
Fast forward to today and the 46-year-old Denver resident is spreading the word about his latest venture: outdoor misting systems. Building on an idea widely used in his home state of California and throughout the west, he started Climate Control Systems of the Carolinas in the spring of 2009.
To spread the word about his new offering, he's donating two systems to Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for terminally and chronically ill children near Greensboro. One will be installed around the camp's mini-golf course, the other will be built around its nature tower, which houses the zip line.
"I hate to see people suffer," Rutkai said. "When I sat down and watched a 20-minute video about what they do at the camp, and I saw the kids dripping with sweat, I knew I had to do something."
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In initial meetings, Victory Junction representatives told Rutkai that by the time kids got to the third hole of the miniature golf course, they were melting.
"After I told them we'd donate two systems, their eyes lit up," he said.
Rutkai moved to Denver 13 years ago, with his wife and two kids. He's also a general contractor, and his irrigation, illumination and landscape company, ExecuGreens, has operated in the area for more than 10 years.
The pressures of a successful sales career with a national corporation, and being away from his family for days at a time, pushed him to start his own business.
"I was just waiting for the technology to adapt for use in areas of high humidity," he said.
Using another company's patented nozzle, the system uses flash evaporation technology to lower outdoor temperatures by 15 to 20 degrees, Rutkai said. It also minimizes odors, allergens and insects.
"We adapt our programming to the specific needs of each child we serve," said camp co-founder Pattie Petty. "This allows us to help these amazing children do things they never dreamed possible. The new misting systems will help us continue to meet those special needs, and in return, create the once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The systems at the camp, estimated at $12,000, will be completed by June, when summer is nearing its hottest. Residential systems can be installed around pools, decks, patios or any outdoor area, including boats. Residential systems take less than two weeks to install, and range from $600 to $2,000. During times of drought, supply tanks will be filled for free by the installer.
The donation will keep campers cool for years.
"They donated misting systems to two program areas that are affected by hot weather," said LeKeshia Franklin, Victory Junction development coordinator, who has worked with CCS on this project for the last year. "They will bring much-needed comfort to the campers. When we didn't have the misting systems, those activities would have to be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If it was sweltering hot, they'd even have to be canceled.
"Now, those activities can be enjoyed throughout the day, and we can't thank Climate Control Systems enough for that."
Rutkai is looking to develop more partnerships with area nonprofits that offer outdoor events, like benefit walks and runs, but said the systems also could benefit animal shelters and restaurants with outdoor seating.
"If I can make conditions better that allow nonprofits to draw more participants to their events, then, to me, that's when I truly see the benefit of what we do."
Details: 704-799-5223 or www.coolingthecarolinas.com.