Today was our annual Rides-N-Smiles event.
By “our,” I refer to the Southern Automotive Media Association.
When we first formed this group nearly five years ago now, one of our first officers, Bill Adam (a former champion racer) said one event he would like to see the organization get involved in was to a day giving seriously ill children rides in dream cars around a race track.
He had been part of an event back in Canada, where he grew up after leaving Scotland.
Everybody thought that was a great idea. After all, we have a Speedway right in our backyard, so-to-speak, in Homestead. Should be a snap, right?
Well, it look us a bit more doing to get this event going that most reasonable folks might have expected, but the balking had nada to do with the speedway or the car manufacturers.
Both stepped right up with the speedway donating the use of the facility for the day and manufacturers immediately agreed to provide the cars.
Believe it or not, the difficult thing was to find get the children to provide rides for.
This may be a bit of a revelation, at least it was on our part, but some people who run organizations whose purpose is to provide support for seriously ill children and their families seem to be more interested in raising money for their own projects than to take part in something sponsored by somebody else, even when that somebody else is going to do all the heavy lifting and all they had to do was get the children to the speedway.
In fact, at least one group (which will remaining nameless, because overall they do good work, I think) sent Bill paperwork to fill out to sponsor a fundraiser.
Before Bill gave up in frustration, I told him I would call some friends of mine in marketing at Baptist Children’s Hospital, which is part of the extensive Baptist Health South Florida hospital and healthcare service system down here in South Florida (hence the system’s name).
They had children from cancer support groups and with other serious illness they were looking to give a day of cheer. They do fantastic work there. When I was working at another job, they once gave me a tour of the preemie ward, where there were prematurely born children weighing hardly more than a pound being tended to. And they were saving their lives.
So we had our children, and on Nov. 1, 2008, we had our first Rides-N-Smiles event.
You can read it about it if you want by going to our website at www.samaonline.org, then clicking on events on the front page. There you’ll find accounts of our monthly meetings and other events, including Rides-N-Smiles. They are in reverse chronological order, and Rides-N-Smiles coverage will be found among the November dates.
A couple of years ago, because of the speedway’s schedule, we moved the event to the on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. That has remained the date since. And last year, we expanded the list of children to include those from Miami Children’s Hospital.
This year we had soldiers from the local VA hospital and other military outlets come and help escort the children out to the cars. They got rides as well in the afternoon.
All in all, it was our biggest and best Rides-N-Smiles event yet, with a big number of participants and the kind of weather (sunny, temperature in the low-80s) South Florida tourist directors are always bragging about.
I am posting this blog before all the pictures from today’s event have been posted to our website, and one of our members also sent a video link that I’m sure will be posted later.
The above picture, by the way, is of Angel, one of my passengers, and me. Angel asked some of us to sign the back of his shirt after his ride.
I didn’t have much time to take many pictures since I was driving the Dodge Challenger SRT pictured here. I also snapped the red Audi R8 on the track, then got all artsy-fartsy with the reflection of pit row in the windows above Victory Lane at the speedway in the other shot on this blog.
As I note, there will be much better coverage at our website. If you like to see kids having fun (not to mention a few adults as well) check it out sometime.